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On his last day in office, former New Jersey Governor Chris Christie signed racial and ethnic impact statement legislation this week that will provide an opportunity for lawmakers to address the state’s high rate of racial disparity in incarceration.

Similar to fiscal or environmental impact statements, racial impact statements provide legislators with a statistical analysis of the projected impact of criminal justice policy changes prior to enactment. Armed with the data analysis,  policymakers can make more informed decisions about  public safety issues without aggravating existing racial disparities. Four other states — Connecticut, Iowa, Minnesota, and Oregon — have similar policies.

The Sentencing Project worked with several state partners in advancing the legislation, including Rev. Charles Boyer who leads the faith coalition, Salvation and Social Justice, Drug Policy Alliance – NJ, and ACLU of New Jersey.

By some measures, New Jersey has led the nation in criminal justice reform in recent years by expanding drug courts and revamping the bail system which led to a prison population decline of 31% since 1999, with no adverse effect on public safety. Yet, New Jersey has the nation’s highest rate of black/white disparity in incarceration, according to The Sentencing Project’s findings in 2016.

The Sentencing Project believes meaningful reforms to the criminal justice system must account for racial and ethnic disparities in the prison system, and focus attention on reducing those disparities.

For questions or to discuss racial impact statement campaigns contact Nicole D. Porter, Director of Advocacy, at nporter@sentencingproject.org.