The ACLU of New Jersey along with more than 25 partners today submitted a letter to New Jersey Senators and Assemblymembers expressing strong opposition to recent “tough-on-crime" legislation that would roll back successful criminal legal reforms and lead to the mass incarceration spike experienced in the 1980 and 1990s.
Jim Sullivan, Deputy Policy Director of the ACLU of New Jersey, released the following statement:
“Lawmakers must remember that in 2014, New Jersey voters took decisive action to virtually end cash bail and replace it with a system that has been held out nationwide as ‘a model for other states.’ If passed, attempts to roll back bail reform would lead to an explosion in the number of innocent people jailed before trial, exacerbate mass incarceration, and worsen the stark racial disparities in New Jersey’s prisons and jails.
“Our sense of security has been threatened by incidents we see in the 24/7 news or may have experienced personally, but these ‘tough-on-crime' policies aren't based on evidence, data, or justice. They rely on biased and inaccurate claims, as well as long-exploited racial tropes, for political gains at an enormous human cost. People across the political spectrum want an approach to the criminal legal system that is smart on crime, fair, and racially just. Now is the time for New Jersey to build on its historic decarceration and decriminalization efforts - not roll them back.”
Reverend Charles F. Boyer, Founding Director of Salvation and Social Justice, released the following statement:
"New Jersey needs a legislature that responds to the needs and concerns of communities with data informed legislation rather than legislation that continues to be driven by punitive and draconian narratives. The facts are clear, that so called ‘tough-on-crime’ bills such as S3347 neither prevent crime nor keep communities safer. What it will do is continue to usher a disproportionate number of Black bodies through the prison industrial complex and further exacerbate the stark racial disparities that already exist in the state.”
Amy Torres, Executive Director of New Jersey Alliance for Immigrant Justice, released the following statement:
“'Tough-on-crime' proposals serve only one purpose: to distract the public. Hysterical proposals like the ones recently introduced in the legislature are designed to distract from the failure to pass transformative policies that build the social safety net. Safer communities are ones where every person has access to the programs, services, and rights that empower and protect them. New Jersey is more diverse than ever before, but we also remain as divided as ever by racial disparities that will only deepen with harmful proposals like these. The State has a responsibility to invest in its people and not indulge the racist hysterias that have birthed these policies."
Alex Staropoli, Director of Advocacy and Communications of Fair Share Housing Center, released the following statement:
“Real community safety comes from investments in housing, healthcare, food, and education. Bringing back misguided ‘tough-on-crime' policies from our past will only harm communities of color and further entrench racial disparities that are already so problematic in our state. Now is not the time to go backwards. We should instead be working towards a future that includes real solutions to the problems our communities are facing.”
Marleina Ubel, Policy Analyst and State Policy Fellow of New Jersey Policy Perspective, released the following statement:
"These bills are not grounded in data, but rather, are a knee-jerk response that will only serve to criminalize more people. Equating motor vehicle theft to violent crime is reminiscent of the kind of 'tough-on-crime' approach that exacerbates mass incarceration while failing to actually get to the root of the problem."
Zayid Muhammad, Organizer of N-CAP and NJ-CAP, released the following statement:
“We demand that the Legislature unite to move forward and continue the work of criminal justice and police reform, rather than backslide and criminalize community members. Legislators stood up and committed to public safety change that helps community after the murders of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor, and we call on you to dare to work together with us for real police and criminal legal system reform.”
Yannick Wood, Director of the Criminal Justice Reform Program of New Jersey Institute for Social Justice, released the following statement:
“We urge the state not to resort back to failed knee-jerk policies that despite being promoted as ‘tough on crime,’ in fact do not reduce crime in the long-term but only perpetuate the vicious cycle of over-incarceration and recidivism, especially for Black and other communities of color. New Jersey needs to build on its successful track record of bail reform and invest in communities and programs that get at root causes if we’re ever going to break this cycle and achieve lasting success. New Jersey has an opportunity to creatively and courageously lead; let’s not squander it.”
The letter was sent on behalf of American Civil Liberties Union of New Jersey, American Friends Service Committee Prison Watch, Beacon UU Congregation, Black Lives Matter Paterson, Casa Freehold, CJ Griffin, Esq. (individual), Fair Share Housing Center, Faith in New Jersey, Ironbound Community Corporation, Linda L. McDonald (individual), Make the Road NJ, MomsRising, National Action Network South Jersey Chapter, NAACP Newark, New Jersey Alliance for Immigrant Justice, New Jersey Citizen Action, New Jersey Policy Perspective, NJ Harm Reduction Coalition, NJ Prison Justice Watch, New Jersey Institute for Social Justice, Not In Our Town Princeton, Our Revolution NJ, People's Organization For Progress, Reimagining Justice Inc./Paterson Healing Collective, Rise Against Hate, Salvation and Social Justice, Sindhu Xirasagar (individual), The Urban Health Consultants, Unitarian Universalist Faith Action NJ, UU Faith Action NJ, and Zoya Haye (individual).