Several New Jersey Gubernatorial Candidates Support Key Proposals of the Institute’s Social Justice Vision Platform

Several gubernatorial candidates support key proposals in the New Jersey Institute for Social Justice’s (“Institute”) platform document, including raising the minimum wage, closing New Jersey’s youth prisons and reinvesting in the creation of a community-based system of care, and restoring the right to vote to people with criminal convictions, according to the results of a survey conducted by the Institute. The survey was distributed to each of the candidates for governor following the sold out social justice gubernatorial forum hosted by the Institute and the NAACP New Jersey State Conference at NJPAC in May, which attracted more than 600 people from the community. 

“The Institute’s Social Justice Vision details policy proposals that will help make our state a standard bearer for social, economic, and racial justice,” said Ryan P. Haygood, Institute President and CEO. “We are heartened to see that so many of the candidates for governor embrace these proposals which, if enacted, will chart a progressive path forward for New Jersey. We will work closely with our many partners across New Jersey to ensure that our next governor is accountable to this social justice agenda.”

Each gubernatorial candidate from the Democratic, Republican, and Green parties received a copy of the Institute’s platform agenda, “A Social Justice Vision for New Jersey” (“Vision”), as well as a survey requesting their positions on each of the Vision’s policy proposals.
 A copy of the Vision document can be found here and a copy of the survey can be found here.

Democratic candidates Bill Brennan, Jim Johnson, Senator Ray Lesniak, Ambassador Phil Murphy, Assemblyman John Wisniewski, and Councilman Mark Zinna, as well as Green Party candidate Pastor Seth Kaper-Dale returned the survey.

As requested by the survey, each of the candidates but Murphy checked off yes or no for each proposal. For his part, Murphy provided written explanations for each answer.

Click the links below for a copy of each candidates' completed survey:








Economic Mobility

The Institute proposes immediately raising the minimum wage to $12 an hour with a phase-in to $15 an hour.  New Jersey’s minimum wage is currently $8.44 an hour. The candidates were asked if they supported this proposal.


  • Johnson, Lesniak, Wisniewski, Zinna, and Kaper-Dale support the Institute’s proposal to raise the minimum wage immediately to $12 an hour, with a phase-in to $15 an hour.
  • Brennan calls for an immediate increase to a $15 an hour minimum wage.
  • Murphy wrote: “As Governor, I will raise New Jersey’s minimum wage from its current rate of $8.44 to $15 an hour and will work with the legislature to craft a schedule that accomplishes this increase as quickly and responsibly as possible.”

Youth Justice

The Institute proposes closing two of New Jersey’s youth prisons -- the New Jersey Training School for Boys (AKA Jamesburg) and the girls’ prison, Hayes – and creating a community-based system of care. On June 28, the Institute will launch their #150yearsisenough campaign with a rally outside Jamesburg, 150 years after the boys’ prison opened its doors. Each candidate was asked if they support closure and investment in community-based programs.


  • Brennan, Johnson, Lesniak, Wisniewski, Zinna, and Kaper-Dale all support closing Jamesburg and Hayes and reinvesting funds into community-based programs.
  • Murphy wrote that he will “pursue policies intended to reduce youth incarceration rates and decrease the need for youth prisons” and that he will “promote alternatives such as diversion programs.”

Voting Rights

The Institute proposes restoring the right to vote to those with criminal convictions. In New Jersey, a person convicted of a felony must complete all terms of their sentence—including parole and probation—before their voting rights are restored. Each candidate was asked if they support restoring the right to vote to those on parole or probation, as well as to those who are incarcerated. 


  • Lesniak and Wisniewski support restoring the right to vote to people on parole or probation. 
  • Brennan, Kaper-Dale, Johnson, and Zinna support restoring the right to vote to people on parole or probation, as well as to people who are incarcerated.  
  • Murphy wrote, “I believe that once individuals are released from prison, their voting rights should be restored.”


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