NJ Could be a Reform leader if Assembly Follows in Voting For Criminal Justice Policies to State Potential Impact on People of Color

New Jersey’s racial and ethnic impact statements bill, which would help address our state’s disturbing racial disparities in the criminal justice system, is one step closer to becoming law.

The New Jersey State Senate voted to approve the minor changes Governor Chris Christie made in a July conditional veto to S677/A3677. The bill would require proposed criminal justice laws and regulations to come with estimates of their impact on communities of color. If the Assembly joins the Senate in approving Christie’s suggested changes, New Jersey would join the ranks of states making smarter decisions regarding criminal justice.

New Jersey has the largest racial disparity nationwide in Black and white incarceration rates, with Black New Jerseyans incarcerated at a rate 12 times higher than whites. This legislation, if enacted, will help address criminal justice disparities by giving lawmakers information about the potential consequences of proposed policies.

The following statement can be attributed to Dianna Houenou, Policy Counsel of the ACLU of New Jersey:

Dianna Houenou"With today’s Senate vote, New Jersey is one step closer to leading states reforming the criminal justice system. We need the Assembly to vote yes to making racial impact statements a reality.

"New Jersey has an opportunity to lead the nation in criminal justice reform by shining a light not only on our current disparities, but on the impact of future proposals that could worsen them.

"New Jersey has lowered the total number of people behind bars here, but our racial disparities in prisons and jails still climb. Lawmakers need to know whether a policy could disproportionately and unjustly harm people of color when they still have a chance to fix it.

"Our criminal justice laws have the power to place people in cages, break up families, and strip people of freedoms that are essential to their lives, like voting. Before making such far-ranging decisions about people’s lives, our lawmakers need to know the ramifications. With today’s vote, that goal is closer within our sights."