Skip to main content
News

New Jersey Is a Leader on Criminal Justice Reform. So Why This Racial Disparity?

June 26, 2016
New Jersey has led the nation in reducing its state prison population, achieving a 31% reduction since 1999, with no adverse effect on public safety. However, racial disparities in New Jersey prisons are the highest in the nation.

By some measures, New Jersey has led the nation in criminal justice reform in recent years. Many states have experienced a modest decline since reaching their peak prison populations, but New Jersey state reduced its prison population by 31% between 1999 and 2014, with no adverse effect on public safety. In addition, state leadership has championed reform measures including expanding drug courts and overhauling the bail system.

However, racial disparities in New Jersey prisons are the highest in the nation, the Star-Ledger points out in an editorial:

Despite all this progress, however, a new report from The Sentencing Project, a Washington D.C. think-tank, spotlights a troubling problem. Yes, New Jersey’s prison population has shrunk. And yes, our black incarceration rate is below the national average. But our state still incarcerates blacks at a far higher rate than whites.

While there are many causes of racial disparities in the criminal justice system, one key source is policies and practices that seem race-neutral, but disproportionately impact people of color. In New Jersey, a state Senate bill voted out of committee last week would help prevent these disparities by requiring a racial and ethnic impact statement to be drawn up for any proposal that affects sentencing.

The Star-Ledger editorial board concludes: “[O]ur state should be collecting more solid data to address this racial disparity – and ensure we aren’t making it worse.”

Read the full editorial on the Star-Ledger.

 
Related Posts
publications
September 05, 2018

Decarceration Strategies: How 5 States Achieved Substantial Prison Population Reductions

Dennis Schrantz, Stephen DeBor, and Marc Mauer
Connecticut, Michigan, Mississippi, Rhode Island, and South Carolina have reduced their prison populations between 14-25% over the past decade. This report describes how these five states can serve as decarceration roadmaps for other states.
publications
Public Comment on Commission’s Proposed Priorities for 2018-2019 Amendment Cycle
August 27, 2018

Public Comment on Commission’s Proposed Priorities for 2018-2019 Amendment Cycle

A coalition of civil rights, criminal justice reform, and human rights groups provided comments to the U.S. Sentencing Commission on ways to improve the fairness and proportionality of the Guidelines; promote individualized review of specific offense conduct; and mitigate excessively punitive provisions.