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
June 14, 2016

The Color of Justice 2016 Report

African Americans are incarcerated in state prisons across the country at more than five times the rate of whites, and at least ten times the rate in five states. This report documents the rates of incarceration for whites, African Americans, and Hispanics in each state, identifies three contributors to racial and ethnic disparities in imprisonment, and provides recommendations for reform.
publications
October 07, 2021

Sign-on Letter: Pass the Redefinition of Child Amendment Act of 2021

Justice organizations urge the Mayor and the Council of the District of Columbia to pass Bill 4-0338, the Redefinition of Child Amendment Act of 2021 as a necessary, common sense approach to juvenile justice reform that will create better outcomes for youth and communities, will treat children as children, and will make significant steps forward in advancing racial equity.