"Leaving [Jamesburg] made me realize that the same way I came in is the same way I came out -- empty and lost," said Marcus, a Newark student.
Standing before more than 500 people at the "Lock Arms to Unlock Our Kids" rally Saturday, May 18, Marcus shared his painful and sobering experience as a young man formerly incarcerated in Jamesburg youth prison.
"We stand with you, Marcus!" shouted someone with applause from the audience.
Indeed, people from across New Jersey stood powerfully with Marcus and locked arms around the entire proposed youth prison site in Newark (the former Pabst Blue Ribbon site) -- along South Orange Avenue, down Grove Street, and across 14th Avenue -- to say, "BUILD KIDS. NOT PRISONS."
Following the historic Jamesburg and Hayes youth prison closure announcements, New Jersey is planning to spend $160 million to construct three new youth prisons, including one in central (Ewing Township), one in southern (Winslow Township), and one in northern (a Newark site was proposed and defeated) New Jersey.
New Jersey's plan to build three new youth prisons carries a perverse economic incentive to fill them -- with our kids.
And it comes at a time when the annual price tag for each incarcerated kid in New Jersey is already $289,000.
Aerial Footage from Lock Arms to Unlock Our Kids Rally
But as the people have made clear, we do not need a new youth prison in Newark. Or anywhere else in New Jersey.
Instead, we need to deeply invest in restorative and reparative community-based care for young people impacted by incarceration in New Jersey, where a Black kid is 30 times more likely to be locked up than a white kid -- the highest racial disparity rate in America.
Until we transform it, the system is the system, so the community has to be the community.
Join the #150YearsIsEnough campaign and advocate for our kids in three ways:
1) Read and urge your legislative representative to support the recently-introduced New Jersey Youth Justice Transformation Act (A5365/S3701), which will develop a closure plan for New Jersey's three youth prisons, create a $100 million fund for youth programs in the communities most impacted by youth incarceration, require the State to conduct an analysis of its eleven non-secure youth residential community homes to see how they can be better used (as is or as renovated/repurposed), and stop the State from using any funds for new youth prison construction.
2) Sign our open letter urging Governor Murphy to halt New Jersey's shameful plan to spend $160 million to build three new prisons for kids and to, instead, invest substantial resources to build kids; and
3) Tweet @GovMurphy using #150YearsIsEnough to let him know that you do not support new youth prisons in Newark or anywhere else in New Jersey!