Patch.com's Anthony Bellano Reports
A statewide task force charged with helping improve New Jersey's youth justice system is seeking public input, the state attorney general's office announced on Monday. The state is particularly interested in hearing from those who have been directly impacted by the system.
The Task Force for the Continued Transformation of Youth Justice in New Jersey will hold a listening session at KROC Corps Community Center in Camden from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. on Thursday, Jan. 23. The center is located at 1865 Harrison Avenue in Camden.
"We're calling on members of the community to share their ideas, experiences and opinions related to New Jersey's youth justice system and suggest ways to improve it," said Dr. Jennifer LeBaron, Acting Executive Director of the Juvenile Justice Commission and Chairperson of the Task Force. "We welcome comments about any aspect of the system, but we are particularly interested in feedback on several specific topics of interest."
The event will open with brief remarks from the members of the task force before being opened up for public comment. Each person will have three minutes to speak, and speakers may remain anonymous.
It is one in a series of listening sessions that have been scheduled throughout the state in order to collect input from justice-involved youth, their families, residents living in areas impacted by juvenile crime, residents living in areas where youth justice facilities are located, and other stakeholders on how to improve youth justice policies, increase fairness in the system, and make more effective use of resources.
"Governor Murphy established this Task Force as a way to bring everyone to the table to create a blueprint for reforming our youth justice system. The listening sessions are a way for members of the community to make their voices heard in that process," Attorney General Gurbir S. Grewal said. "The insight and feedback they provide will help guide the Task Force in carrying out its mandate to explore ways of making the system more effective, fair, and just for all."
The Juvenile Justice Commission has been designated as a national model for juvenile detention reform by the Annie E. Casey Foundation, according to officials. It has been working to reduce its incarcerated youth population through the Juvenile Detention Alternatives Initiative.
As a result, officials say New Jersey has made great strides in modernizing its juvenile justice system. However, there are still large racial disparities in youth incarceration rates and other issues that remain problematic and must be dealt with, officials said.
Murphy established the task force in October 2018 in an effort to ensure that the state's juvenile justice system reflects New Jersey's values, including safety, dignity, and fairness.
It is made up of various stakeholders, including representatives from, among other organizations, the County Prosecutors Association, the Office of the Public Defender, and the New Jersey Institute for Social Justice.
Information collected from the various listening sessions will be provided to the Governor's Office, the Department of Law and Public Safety, Executive Branch departments and agencies, and the Legislature. They will consider how to use this and other information the Task Force collects over the course of its mission to help improve the state's juvenile justice system.
For more information or to register for a Listening Session, go to https://nj.gov/oag/youthjustice/.