Disparities in New Jersey Prison System

A report by the Sentencing Project provides a mixed picture of the social justice system in the state of New Jersey.

The report states,”Truly meaningful reforms to the criminal justice system cannot be accomplished without acknowledgement of racial and ethnic disparities in the prison system, and focused attention on reduction of disparities. Since the majority of people in prison are sentenced at the state level rather than the federal level, it is critical to understand the variation in racial and ethnic composition across states, and the policies and the day-to-day practices that contribute to this variance. Incarceration creates a host of collateral consequences that include restricted employment prospects, housing instability, family disruption, stigma, and disenfranchisement.”

Key findings include:

  • African Americans are incarcerated in state prisons at a rate that is 5.1 times the imprisonment of whites. In five states (Iowa, Minnesota, New Jersey, Vermont, and Wisconsin), the disparity is more than 10 to 1.
  • In twelve states, more than half of the prison population is black: Alabama, Delaware, Georgia, Illinois, Louisiana, Maryland, Michigan, Mississippi, New Jersey, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Virginia. Maryland, whose prison population is 72% African American, tops the nation.
  • States exhibit substantial variation in the range of racial disparity, from a black/white ratio of 12.2:1 in New Jersey to 2.4:1 in Hawaii.

On a positive note, New Jersey has witnessed and been a leader in reducing its prison population. Since 2000 the state has reduced the number of individuals in prison by 28%. It also has Re-entry Task Forces in a majority of counties. For more information on these community, county based groups contact the NJ State Parole Board by writing to: NJSPB_Public_Info_Office@spb.state.nj.us.

You can take action to help reduce racial disparities in our criminal justice system. Ask your State Senator to support bill S677. The text of S677 is available online.

Special thanks to NJ Advance Media reporter, S.P. Sullivan for his recent article, “Racial disparity in NJ prison rates highest in U.S., report finds”.

The Sentencing Project is a national non-profit organization engaged in research and advocacy on criminal justice issues.

Author: Michael Swayze

A retired county welfare agency administrator, who combines social work and computer skills to share information on community resources via the Internet since 1995. Active in voter engagement activities in Philadelphia, PA.

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