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New Jersey Task Force: A Step Towards Justice

December 13, 2018
Alyson Clements

NJ Task Force: A Step Towards Justice

NJJN Member New Jersey Institute for Social Justice (NJISJ) celebrated a new executive order signed by New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy creating a youth justice taskforce. The taskforce, officially called the Task Force for the Continued Transformation of Youth Justice in New Jersey, builds off of former Governor Chris Christie’s announcement of the closure of two of the state’s youth prisons. Among other things, the taskforce will evaluate the following issues: (1) racial disparities; (2) community-based programs; (3) reinvestment of funds into the creation of a community-based system of care; and (4) facility closure.

“We are very appreciative of the governor’s recognition of the need to truly transform the system, and we are looking forward to being at the table to create community driven solutions,” said NJISJ’s Community Engagement Manager, James Williams.

The Institute is a member of the Youth Justice New Jersey coalition (formerly the New Jersey Juvenile Justice Reform Coalition), which has been a vocal proponent of juvenile justice reform in New Jersey. Among the coalition’s many efforts, it has pushed for reforming the use of solitary confinement, access to counsel, youth transfer, racial impact statements, and, most recently, the closure of Jamesburg and Hayes, two of New Jersey’s three youth prisons. “The taskforce is the next of many steps we are taking to ensure that communities are driving the conversation and defining justice,” said Williams.

Fellow NJJN member and YJLI Alum, Kathy Wright, of the New Jersey Parents Caucus (NJPC) reiterated that the order is a step in the right direction, stating “the task force's focus on a community-based system of care is everything.  We can’t move forward without investing in youth, families and strength-based programs strategically placed in our communities.”

While celebrating the progress, the coalition is not taking a moment to rest, but instead looking to ensure the taskforce incorporates community voice.  Real change is going to come from those who are most impacted. In William’s words, “It’s not just discussions with the Governor, but engaging community leaders in designing transformative solutions.  We are looking forward to working across the system to transform the system.”

Moving forward, Youth Justice New Jersey will focus on the following three areas of reform:

  1. School-to-Prison Pipeline

  2. Conditions of Confinement

  3. Decarceration

For more information on Youth Justice New Jersey, check out: http://www.youthjusticenj.org/

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