Criminal Justice Equity in NJ
Want to make sure our NJ state legislature addresses racial inequities in criminal justice.... Call your local assembly persons <<look them up here http://www.njleg.state.nj.us/districts/districtnumbers.asp#27>> : and say.
As a voter in New Jersey, I am calling to urge you to vote in support of Assembly Bill 3677/Senate Bill 677 on March 16, 2017, when it comes before the full Assembly.
Also Mila Jasey can be found at (973) 762-1886) for phone calls
Below is the text of a long letter you can sign at NJ Drug Policy Alliance.
This important legislation would require racial and ethnic impact statements (REIS) for certain bills and regulations affecting sentencing. This legislation is bipartisan and was passed with overwhelming support in the Senate.
REIS require policymakers proposing new legislation to assess the potential impact of the legislation on racial and ethnic disparities. Such statements are similar to fiscal or environmental impact statements, and are generally understood as a factual, unbiased tool to inform the legislature as they decide whether or not a particular bill should be enacted.
Our failed criminal justice system has produced profoundly unequal outcomes across racial groups, despite policies that are race neutral on their face. Higher stop, search, arrest, conviction and sentencing rates for African American and Latino Americans are not reflective of increased prevalence of drug use or sales in these communities. But rather these disparities involve historical customs and practices in law enforcement and the criminal justice system that exacerbate structural inequities by focusing on urban areas, lower-income communities, and communities of color. REIS can help assess disparities at various stages of the criminal justice process to reveal discriminatory outcomes, whether purposeful or not.
In New Jersey, the Drug-Free Zone law is one example of legislation that would have greatly benefited from a REIS at the time of its passage. In 2005, the New Jersey Commission to Review Criminal Sentencing found that 96 percent of those incarcerated under the law were African American or Latino. Because of the way the drug-free zones were set up, to overlap and cover most of the areas in densely populated urban centers, those most likely to get the harsh mandatory minimum established under the law were people of color. A REIS could have provided information about this potential affect prior to the passage of the law. While the legislature did eventually reform the drug-free zone law, a REIS might have kept the legislature from voting for such a flawed bill in the first place.
In a recently released report on racial disparities in the criminal justice system, The Sentencing Project found New Jersey to have the highest racial disparities within its incarcerated population. In New Jersey, African Americans are incarcerated at a rate that is twelve times the incarceration rate of Whites. The national average is five to one.
Even though New Jersey has made strides in reducing its prison population, racial disparities clearly still persist. REIS are a tool for lawmakers to evaluate potential disparities of proposed legislation prior to adoption and implementation. They assist lawmakers in detecting unforeseen policy ramifications and allow them to modify legislation that would worsen New Jersey’s existing racial disparities. If passed, REIS would help New Jersey stay on a positive path forward, toward a fairer and more equitable criminal justice system.
It is easier to prevent a problem than to fix one, and Assembly Bill 3677/Senate Bill 677 attempts to do just that. We hope you will support this important legislation. Thank you for your time and consideration