January 9, 2024
NEWARK –The New Jersey Legislature today ended its session with a mixed record on racial and social justice.
“Overall, we are disappointed that the legislature was not bolder on racial and social justice issues this session. The need for this kind of progress has only increased over the last few years, but elected officials have, in large measure, failed to meet the moment,” said Henal Patel, Law & Policy Director at the New Jersey Institute for Social Justice. “At the same time, as a result of robust efforts from advocates, some important bills were passed today that now await the Governor’s signature. We hope the legislature will govern with more purpose this coming session, and not wait until the lame duck period to act.”
The Senate and Assembly today passed A3117/S269 which codifies existing rights to give youth attorney representation upon arrest.
“It is critical for us to recognize – and indeed, codify – that young people need representation during every stage of the criminal justice process,” said Ashanti Jones, Policy Analyst in the Criminal Justice Reform Program at the New Jersey Institute for Social Justice. “New Jersey’s Black and Brown youth are disproportionately targeted by the criminal justice system, and this bill helps ensure that their rights are protected when they get caught up in a system that could rob them of years of their lives.”
The Assembly today passed A5326 which establishes the Community Crisis Response Advisory Council and community crisis response team pilot.
“Public safety extends beyond policing,” said Emily Schwartz, Senior Counsel in the Criminal Justice Reform Program at the New Jersey Institute for Social Justice. “Real public safety requires providing communities with the tools to keep themselves safe. This bill, which creates a new community-based public safety model and provides necessary financial support to current community-based service providers, is a crucial step towards real public safety in New Jersey.”
And finally, the Assembly today passed A977 which eliminates convictions of indictable offenses as an automatic disqualifier for jury service under certain circumstances.
“We enthusiastically commend Asw. Verlina Reynolds-Jackson and Speaker Craig Coughlin for their leadership and persistence on moving this crucial bill that would lift the lifetime ban on jury service for those with indictable offenses and expand jury service to more than 500,000 people,” said Emily Schwartz, Senior Counsel in the Criminal Justice Reform Program at the New Jersey Institute for Social Justice. “It is a shame that the Senate did not have the vision to advance this landmark legislation that would benefit our communities, our justice system and our democracy, but we remain hopeful it will be passed early in the next legislative session.”
The Institute is also pleased by the passage of A1181 (requires high school students to complete financial aid applications), A3092/S2415 (requires state agencies to update demographic data collection methods), S2459/A3837 (requires state government entities to provide interpretation services and translate their forms into 15 languages) and we encourage Gov. Murphy to sign these crucial bills into law promptly.