August 11, 2021

Transformative Youth Justice Bill Signed into Law Today 

Legislation Creates Pilot Program for Restorative Justice Programs for Young People 

NEWARK — Lt. Gov. Sheila Oliver today, on behalf of the Murphy administration, signed into law the Restorative and Transformative Justice for Youths and Communities Pilot Program bill (A4663/S2924).

With a two-year pilot program in Newark, Camden, Paterson and Trenton, four cities disproportionately impacted by youth incarceration, this legislation will move over $8 million from our antiquated and ineffective youth incarceration system toward the proven practice of restorative justice – an approach that focuses on building healthy relationships and resolving conflicts in communities to decrease youth involvement in the youth justice system.

“This bill signing is a tremendous victory as we begin to shift funds – and our mindset – from investing in our kids’ failure to investing in their success,” said Andrea McChristian, Director of Law & Policy at the New Jersey Institute for Social Justice. “This is an important step toward our larger goal of closing all three of New Jersey’s youth prisons and meaningfully investing dollars into the communities disproportionately harmed by youth incarceration.”

As a result of advocacy from the Institute’s 150 Years is Enough campaign with its partners, New Jersey announced in early 2018 that two of the state’s three youth prisons – Jamesburg and Hayes – will be closed. Years later, they remain open. The bill signed into law today is a major step forward in shifting the focus from incarceration to community-based support for young people. The closure of Jamesburg, Hayes and the Juvenile Medium Security Facility must now follow.

“Today’s legislation will be transformative for young people of color in New Jersey whose lives have been devastated by our broken youth justice system,” said Retha Onitiri, Director of Community Engagement at the New Jersey Institute for Social Justice. “This is an important step on the road to declaring for once and for all that there are no throwaway kids in New Jersey.”