Help Make the Death Penalty History

The death penalty is the ultimate denial of civil liberties. Over the past 30 years, over 100 wrongfully convicted people were released from death row. The legislature is expected to vote on S163 to abolish the death penalty and replace it with life without parole before the end of the year.

State officials and opinion leaders have finally acknowledged what advocates have said for years, the death penalty is a public policy disaster that is expensive, discriminatory, cruel and immoral. In January, the New Jersey Death Penalty Commission issued a report that found that the death penalty costs more than life in prison and doesn't deter crime.

New Jersey reinstated the death penalty in 1982 but hasn't executed anyone since 1963. Currently eight people sit on New Jersey's death row. The Legislature imposed an execution moratorium in December 2005 when it formed the commission that studied the death penalty.

If approved by lawmakers and Governor Corzine, New Jersey would be the first state to legislatively abolish capital punishment since the U.S. Supreme Court reinstated it in 1976. Capital punishment is in force in 38 states. If the measure passes, New Jersey would be the 13th state with no death penalty.

Contact your legislators and Governor Corzine today to support an end to the death penalty in New Jersey.

End the Racist "Drug Free School Zone"

Ask your legislators and Governor Corzine to support an amended version of S4573, which reduces the so-called "drug free school zone" from 1000 feet to 200 feet. The "drug free school zone" law requires a three-year sentence for those convicted of distributing or possessing with intent to sell drugs within 1,000 feet of school property or a school bus, regardless of whether minors were involved or the individuals knew they were in a school zone.

The drug free school zone law is a poster child for criminal justice policies that are costly, ineffective and racially biased. This perspective is shared by people who have studied the law from across the political spectrum.

New Jersey's Sentencing Commission members, including prosecutors and public defenders alike, concluded that the drug free school zone doesn't reduce drug crime and has a discriminatory effect because of the density of school and other drug-free zones in urban areas, where more people of color live, compared to the suburbs. In 2004, over 96 percent of all people imprisoned with school-zone violations were African-American or Latino.

We have numerous policies that cost society a lot of money, but do little to keep people safe or rehabilitate those who enter criminal justice system. The saying "Jail costs more than Yale," really gets to the heart of the matter. We need policies that are smart on crime and will make a real difference in creating a safe society.

The ACLU shares the opinion of the Sentencing Commission members that the drug free school zone does not serve us well. Contact your legislators and Governor Corzine today to support legislation to eliminate the drug free school zone, or at least reduce it to 200 feet.

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