With the close of 2018-2019 legislative session and the beginning of the 2020-2021 session, the ACLU-NJ set out key priorities for the coming year in civil rights and liberties.
ACLU-NJ Executive Director Amol Sinha made the following statement:
Seizing this moment – a vision for the year ahead on the foundation of the victories this session:
“These last two years saw the historic expansion of some of the most fundamental civil rights we have. In 2020, the urgency of our times demands that we set our sights even higher.
“The expansion of rights we have witnessed and the ongoing work to make our rights stronger demonstrate that we in the states are the ones who must lead the way. New Jersey has set a new national standard for civil rights this year, with laws signed restricting solitary confinement and paving the way for stronger oversight in prisons, and we must continue to be that standard-bearer in the years ahead of us. We have the power to show the rest of the country, and even fellow New Jerseyans, what is possible.
“The laws we have passed, and the ones we strive to make reality, share a common theme: an expansion of power among communities who demand our democracy live up to its promises. The profound achievements of this year also remind us of the work ahead, because the work of expanding our civil rights is never finished.
“These monumental changes – outlawing prolonged solitary confinement, stopping local law enforcement from acting as federal immigration agents, expanding driver’s license eligibility regardless of immigration status, paving the way for historic levels of oversight in our prisons, banning racial discrimination based on hair style or texture, mandating independent prosecutors for deaths by police, restoring voting rights to people on probation and parole, and overhauling our expungement system, to name just a few – are a foundation for even bolder action.”
Criminal Justice Reforms Recommended by the Sentencing Commission:
“The calls to action from the Sentencing Commission carry the potential to make real criminal justice reform possible, and we must make sure of two things: that lawmakers pass their recommendations, and that their passage is only the beginning.
“Mass incarceration is a deeply rooted crisis that no single policy or legislative package can fix, but the elimination of mandatory minimums for certain offenses, expansion of medical parole, and reconceiving of how we sentence young people are enormous steps forward.”
Reproductive Freedom and Access to Abortion Care:
“We are grateful for the governor’s commitment to expanding access to reproductive health care, which must include abortion care. The decision when and whether to have a family is both a fundamental right and a personal health care decision. We are eager to work with Governor Murphy, lawmakers, coalition partners, and health care providers to ensure that all New Jerseyans have equitable access to full reproductive freedom.”
Confronting a Culture of Racial and Gender Bias:
“We must have a reckoning in New Jersey with the systemic attacks people in our state experience every day based on their race, gender, gender identity, sexual orientation, religion, and ethnicity. In addition to legal work and public policy, it requires a shift in culture in every aspect of society. It requires empowering people of color, women, and trans and gender non-conforming individuals, and it requires a change among people who already hold power.”
“The approval of a marijuana ballot question through a super-majority shows our state’s progress in ending the civil rights crisis of marijuana arrests. As we near Election Day, one key fact must remain at the fore: marijuana arrests, first and foremost, are a matter of racial and social justice. We need to start thinking about what legalization looks like in practice right now, long before the November election, and we need to make sure our state passes the most forward-looking, civil rights-focused legalization plan in U.S. history.”
“New Jersey has indisputably emerged as a leader in recognizing the rights of immigrants, through policies like expanding eligibility for driver’s licenses regardless of federal immigration status and a separation of local law enforcement and federal immigration to preserve public safety and build community trust.
“We must go even further in protecting New Jersey’s immigrant communities, who still encounter routine discrimination and face a federal government that has intensified its racist and xenophobic policies. We need to grow our state’s life-saving program of legal representation for immigrants facing detention and deportation, and we must implement the new driver’s license law in a way that protects access and privacy. We will work to make sure that our state’s law enforcement agencies work with and for all New Jersey communities.”