Civil Rights and Racial Justice Advocates Applaud Governor and Legislators for Acting to Reduce Racial Disparities in Criminal Justice
Trenton — Today, Governor Christie OKed Senate Bill 677 / Assembly Bill 3677 with minor changes. The Governor did what is known as a conditional veto, amending certain language in the bill. The additional language requires an analysis of the public safety impact of criminal sentencing legislation along with the ethnic and racial impact statements originally required by the bill. S677 / A3677 is sponsored by Senator Ronald L. Rice (D-Essex) and Assemblyman Benjie E. Wimberly (D-Paterson). Similar to fiscal impact statements, racial and ethnic impact statements assist legislators in detecting unforeseen policy ramifications.
“This is a huge victory for racial justice,” said Reverend Charles Boyer, of Salvation and Social Justice and Pastor of Bethel AME Church in Woodbury. “Despite New Jersey’s success in reducing its incarcerated population, our state still has the worst racial disparities within the criminal justice system in the country. Racial and ethnic impact statements are an important first step to righting the wrongs of mass incarceration in our state and we are thankful to Governor Christie and the New Jersey Legislature for their support of this critical policy.”
New Jersey is the fifth state to pass a law requiring policymakers to consider the racial and ethnic impact of certain policies—Iowa, Oregon, Connecticut, and Illinois have already implemented similar legislation. If approved by the legislature, the bill will make New Jersey the first state to require the broader public safety analysis.
“Our criminal justice system has produced profoundly unequal outcomes across racial groups, despite policies that are race neutral on their face,” said Roseanne Scotti, New Jersey State Director for the Drug Policy Alliance. “Racial and ethnic impact statements are an important tool to help assess proposed legislation and prevent discriminatory outcomes. The additional public safety impact statement, if done well, will add to the information that legislators and the public have to effectively consider the merits of sentencing legislation.”
Drug Policy Alliance was part of a broad coalition of civil rights, racial justice and faith-based organizations and individuals, led by Salvation and Social Justice that supported the passage of this legislation. Salvation and Social Justice is a New Jersey-based coalition of clergy and civil rights organizations which seek to fight structural and institutional racism through policy, advocacy, education and reform.
The coalition includes the following organizations: American Friends Service Committee Immigrant Rights Program and Prison Watch Program; American Civil Liberties Union of New Jersey; Anti-Poverty Network of New Jersey; Asbury Park Education Justice Collective; Asbury United Methodist Church, Atlantic City; A Better Way, Inc.; Interdenominational Alliance of New Brunswick and Vicinity; Black Lives Matter – New Jersey: Atlantic City; Bethel AME Church of Woodbury; Mount Teman AME Church; Campaign to End the New Jim Crow, Princeton/Trenton Chapter; Communications Workers of America – New Jersey; Drug Policy Alliance; Evangelical Lutheran Church in America; Trinity Episcopal Church, Princeton; Fair Share Housing Center; Faith in New Jersey; First Unitarian Universalist Church of Hunterdon County; Food Justice at Trinity Asbury Park; Friendship American Methodist Church; Grace and Peace; UU Legislative Ministry of New Jersey; Orange Interfaith Coalition of Pastors and Laity; Latino Action Network; Temple Shalom; Lutheran Episcopal Advocacy Ministry of New Jersey; Opportunities for All, Inc.; National Religious Campaign Against Torture; Metuchen Democrats; Mt. Zion Baptist Church, Pleasantville; NAACP – Gloucester County; NAACP – Morris County; NAACP New Jersey State Conference; National Council of Jewish Women, Essex County; National Organization for Women, Northern NJ Chapter; New Jersey Association on Correction; New Jersey Coalition to End Homelessness; New Jersey Institute for Social Justice; New Jersey Parents Caucus; Zion Evangelical Lutheran Church; Recovery Advisory Group; Reformed Church of Highland Park; Salvation and Social Justice; St. Paul AME Church; Students for Prison Education and Reform; Trenton Violence Reduction Strategy; Unitarian Universalist Congregation at Montclair; Unitarian Universalist Church of Cherry Hill; Wardlaw-Hartridge School; and Women Who Never Give Up, Inc.