From 2017 to 2022, New Jersey made significant progress toward reducing its incarcerated population – and served as a national leader in addressing our mass incarceration crisis.
These improvements were no small feat. They were a product of years of dedicated work and coordination from the ACLU-NJ and partners across the state. Every single change required widespread mobilization of allies, support from policymakers, and public education about the perils of mass incarceration. It also required addressing constant misinformation from pro-incarceration lobbyists.
The larger decarcerative movement that we are still fighting for today is powered by the people who have been impacted most by mass incarceration and the failures of the criminal legal system. The reverberations of every victory and every setback are felt in homes across the state – taking space at nearly every kitchen table – disproportionately affecting Black and brown communities. New Jersey has an obligation to disrupt this status quo that has plagued our towns and cities for decades.
Despite marked progress, our incarcerated population remains far too high, and our criminal legal system continues to disproportionately target and harm communities of color.
To move toward true racial and social justice, New Jersey can’t settle for small changes. We need major transformation. That includes looking beyond our criminal legal system and investing in the communities that have been most harmed by mass incarceration. By reinvesting in these communities and providing resources for education, food security, affordable housing, health care, and more, we can build safer and more resilient communities.
It’s critical to keep building on the momentum of the past few years to tackle deep racial disparities and reduce New Jersey’s incarcerated population. With the right reforms, we can continue to build healthier and stronger communities and reimagine the criminal legal system as we know it.