The following testimony by Ryan Haygood was submitted to the Assembly Law and Public Safety Committee in support of A2182:
Chair Benson, Vice Chair Danielsen, and Distinguished Members of the Assembly Law and Public Safety Committee:
Thank you for the opportunity to submit this testimony to the Assembly Law and Public Safety Committee. I am Ryan P. Haygood, President and CEO of the New Jersey Institute for Social Justice (the “Institute”), a Newark-based urban research and advocacy organization. Established nearly twenty years ago by Alan V. and Amy Lowenstein, the Institute’s mission is to empower urban residents to realize and achieve their full potential. Our advocacy is aimed at toppling the load-bearing walls of structural inequality to create just, vibrant, and healthy urban communities. To achieve this goal, we employ a broad range of advocacy tools, including research and writing, public education, communications, grassroots organizing, developing pilot programs, policy initiatives, legislative advocacy, and litigation. The Institute’s work rests upon three interconnected pillars: (1) economic mobility; (2) criminal justice reform; and (3) civic engagement.
Through our criminal justice reform work, the Institute is working to create a rational and effective criminal justice system that (1) strengthens communities by treating people, particularly the most vulnerable among us, fairly and equally; (2) provides alternatives to incarceration; (3) protects constitutional rights; (4) ensures racial equality; and (5) increases law enforcement responsiveness, accountability, and transparency.
As part of our work to promote alternatives to incarceration and to reduce this state’s prison population, I urge you to vote yes on Assembly Bill 2182, which would allow for the release of certain nonviolent offenders after they have completed their basic sentence, provided that they have not committed any serious disciplinary infractions while incarcerated and have complied with rehabilitation recommendations.
Incarcerating an individual after they complete their sentence is a poor use of taxpayers’ money and prevents them from reentering and reintegrating into the community. The overuse of incarceration does not just impact the individual imprisoned; it places an enormous strain on immediate and extended families, disproportionately impacting New Jersey’s most vulnerable communities—which are primarily communities of color. Racial disparities in New Jersey prisons are the highest in the nation. Indeed, while Black and Latino people make up less than 30 percent of the state’s overall population, they account for an incredible 80 percent of those who are incarcerated.
In addition to the huge financial cost of imprisonment to the taxpayers, research shows that long prison sentences do not make us safer and do not effectively decrease recidivism. Instead, they simply prolong the isolation of incarcerated people from their families and communities, further compounding the challenges they will face in their inevitable reintegration.
Under present circumstances, administrative delays often result in individuals remaining in prison long after they become eligible for parole. Not only is this unfair and a poor use of resources, but it also undermines public safety. Assembly Bill 2182 would provide long-overdue reform, at a significant savings to taxpayers, and without any increased risk to public safety.
Thank you for your consideration of the Institute’s testimony, and please do not hesitate to contact us with any questions about this or our criminal justice reform work.
Ryan P. Haygood
President and CEO
New Jersey Institute for Social Justice