By Charles Boyer | Salvation and Social Justice
New Jersey has the nation’s highest rate of black/white disparity in incarceration in both the criminal and youth justice system. In response to our advocacy former Governor, Chris Christie signed racial and ethnic impact statement legislation. To date, the law has not been implemented as it should.
Similar to fiscal or environmental impact statements, racial impact statements provide legislators with a statistical analysis of the projected impact of criminal or youth justice policy changes prior to enactment. Armed with the data analysis, policymakers can make more informed decisions about public safety issues without aggravating existing racial disparities.
We led the fight several years ago to require a racial and ethnic impact statement framework. At the time, a robust network of faith leaders, civil and criminal justice reform organizations, and youth justice advocates worked closely to support the adoption and implementation of a racial and ethnic impact statement policy.
The delay in implementation surfaces questions about state officialsâ€™ commitment to addressing racially disparate outcomes in criminal justice policy. According to the law â€œthe Legislative Services Commission shall direct the Office of Legislative Services to prepare a racial and ethnic impact statement for each proposed criminal justice bill, resolution, or amendment that would affect pretrial detention, sentencing, probation, or parole policies in this State prior to any vote being taken on the bill, resolution, or amendment in either House of the Legislature.â€ It is our understanding that this has not been put into practice despite the fact that the law has been in effect for nearly a year.
For the above reasons and more, we strongly urge the Legislative Services Commission to establish and implement the statutorily required racial and ethnic impact statement policy as codified by 2016â€™s S677/A3677. We are committed to swift enactment of this statutory practice.
In the interest of fairness and justice for all New Jersey residents, we ask for your partnership in this important effort. The stateâ€™s commitment to racial justice depends on it.
Contact the Senate President’s Office and the Speaker’s Office and urge them to direct the Office of Legislative Services to prepare a racial and ethnic impact statements for all criminal justice-related legislation.
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