Ron Pierce: To Vote Has Value to the Soul

Former Institute intern Ron Pierce writes for NJ Spotlight:

The last time I cast a ballot was in 1985, when Tom Kean became governor. Under New Jersey’s law that denies the right to vote to people with criminal convictions, I have been without a voice in our democracy for decades.

Scott Novakowski Testifies on Voting Rights Before the New Jersey Advisory Committee to the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights

Institute Associate Counsel Scott Novakowski presented testimony to the New Jersey Advisory Committee to the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights urging the Committee to examine the racially disparate impact of New Jersey’s law that denies the fundamental right to vote to people with criminal convictions. To read Scott's full testimony, please click here

An excerpt of his testimony is below:

Laws that deny people the right to vote based on a criminal conviction have their origin in the ancient Greek concept of “civil death,” under which a person with a criminal conviction lost all political, civil, and legal rights.1 While many aspects of civil death have appropriately been abandoned over the years, felony disfranchisement—the practice of denying the right to vote to people with criminal convictions—remains.

New Jersey's law disqualifies people from voting when they are in prison, and when they are on parole or probation for a felony.

By linking the right to vote with a criminal justice system that is infected with racial discrimination, New Jersey’s felony disfranchisement law imports inequality into the political process in a manner that disproportionately reduces Black political power, all while failing to achieve any legitimate public safety purpose.
The Institute urges the New Jersey State Advisory Committee to address felony disfranchisement as one of its priority issues, and to urge New Jersey’s elected officials to restore the fundamental right to vote to more than 94,000 people in prison, on parole, and on probation. 

Ryan Haygood: Insider 100 Policymaker 100

Institute President and CEO Ryan Haygood was named one of New Jersey's top 100 Policymakers:



Ryan Haygood: 151 Years Is Enough

Institute President and CEO Ryan Haygood writes for the Star Ledger:

Today, one year after the launch of the 150 Years is Enough campaign, and on the 151st anniversary of Jamesburg's opening, New Jersey has an opportunity to build a new youth justice system that supports families by treating all children as children. 


Fios1: Gala promotes social reform to coincide with Juneteenth

Fios1 reports:

The New Jersey Institute for Social Justice held its 13th annual ceremony at the New Jersey Performing Arts Center on Tuesday night. Honorees included former U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch, who received the National Social Justice Award, and Verizon State Government Affairs Vice President Leecia Eve, who received the Community Builder Award. 

The Honorable Loretta Lynch Celebrates the Institute at 13th Annual Gala


On June 19, 2018 ("Juneteenth") before more than 300 guests at our 13th Annual Gala in Newark, the Honorable Loretta Lynch said that the Institute "holds the future of this city in their hands. And it could not be in better hands."

More than 300 partners attended to celebrate the extraordinary honorees, the Honorable Loretta Lynch, the National Social Justice Awardee; David Mills, the Alan V. and Amy Lowenstein Social Justice Awardee; Wade Henderson, the Lifetime Achievement Awardee; Lowenstein Sandler LLP, the Corporate Leadership Awardee; and Leecia Eve, the Community Builder Awardee. Each of them embody the Institute's mission and share its commitment to doing social and racial justice. Please check out our photo gallery of the event here

This year's theme, "From the Ground Up," recognizes that social justice will always occur from the ground up in our communities, even in difficult national moments, like this one.
The Institute's advocacy is a powerful example of social and racial justice effectively advanced at the state and local levels, despite the racist, xenophobic, and dangerous policies being promoted by national leaders, including President Donald Trump.

After nearly 20 years on the front lines of social justice, the Institute is as committed as ever to ensuring that urban residents live in a society that respects their humanity, provides equality of economic opportunity, empowers them to use their voice in the political process, and protects equal justice.

Census 2020: Institute Joins 150+ Groups in Opposing the Citizenship Question

The New Jersey Institute for Social Justice has joined The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, The Leadership Conference Education Fund, Muslim Advocates, National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials Educational Fund, National Coalition on Black Civic Participation, and more than 145 other organizations in a “friend of the court” brief in the litigation brought by the State of New York against the U.S. Department of Commerce challenging the inclusion of an unnecessary, xenophobic, and intrusive citizenship question in the 2020 Census.

The groups write in part:

A fair and accurate 2020 census is a critical civil rights issue. Not only is the constitutionally mandated census central to apportioning political power at every level of government, but the data collected also influence the annual allocation of more than $800 billion in federal money, along with countless policy and investment decisions by government agencies, nonprofit organizations, and private enterprise. Given its foundational importance to American government and society, the census must be above partisan politics. The misguided decision to reverse seventy years of consistent census practice and insert an untested citizenship question undermines the integrity of the count, damages our communities, and violates the Census Bureau’s constitutional and statutory duties to conduct a full enumeration of the U.S. population.

Ryan Haygood in the Star Ledger: School integration is possible, necessary, and long overdue.

Institute President and CEO Ryan Haygood writes in the Star Ledger:

Integrating our schools would, thus help eliminate the entrenched housing segregation by race, ethnicity, and income that has become a hallmark of our state. 

This reality of our segregated school system is confirmed by my wife's experience as an educator in the Newark Public School system for more than 20 years. In that time, in more than two decades at three different schools, my wife has never had a white student. 

And though my wife and her superb colleagues have empowered their young scholars to overcome the odds with a top-flight education that has produced stunning results, they have done so in spite of staggering structural racism, hyper-segregation, and concentrated poverty.

This is not the promise that was envisioned by Brown.

The Institute Applauds Murphy's Initiative on Apprenticeships

Governor Phil Murphy has announced his vision for the New Jersey Apprenticeship Network (NJAN), a proposal included in his Fiscal Year 2019 budget. The Governor made the announcement during remarks at The Apprenticeship Forward Collaborative’s conference at the John J. Heldrich Center for Workforce Development at Rutgers University.

“New Jersey has some of the worst racial income and wealth disparities in the nation. We must expand access to economic mobility through jobs that pay a living wage and provide a career, including through apprenticeship programs. It is critical that we expand access to apprenticeships for women and people of color, who have been under-represented, particularly in high-growth, well-paying industries,” said Ryan Haygood, president and CEO of the New Jersey Institute for Social Justice. “We look forward to working with Governor Murphy to make New Jersey a national leader on apprenticeships through policies that expand access to women, people of color, and people who face barriers to employment, strengthen the connection between our education and workforce systems, and support our business community’s use of apprenticeships – particularly in new, high-growth industries.”

The Apprenticeship Network will include: 

  • Establishing an Office of Apprenticeships in the state’s Department of Labor and Workforce Development to serve as a single contact for both employers and potential apprentices.  The office will be charged with developing new programs through a new Apprenticeship Innovation Fund and to facilitate interactions both at the federal Department of Labor and across industries;
  • Focusing on high-growth sectors such as advanced manufacturing, clean energy and utilities, IT and software, and health care, and creating demand-driven training widely applicable across these sectors’ employers;
  • Creating formal linkages to the K-12 and higher education systems so that more New Jerseyans receive advanced degrees and students have career-focused options. These include the reinvigoration of the NJPLACE program to help apprentices earn college credits, and robust career counseling for middle and high school students to increase diversity in apprenticeship programs and in their target industries.