Statewide listening sessions on youth justice

Law & Order. A statewide task force to reform youth justice will solicit input from the public in a series of community “Listening Sessions”

06 Jan 2020 | 01:15

A statewide task force charged with recommending strategies for improving New Jersey’s youth justice system is calling on the public - specifically those most directly impacted by the system - to help shape its reform.

In a series of community “listening sessions” that begin this week, the Task Force for the Continued Transformation of Youth Justice in New Jersey (“the Task Force”) is reaching out to justice-involved youth, their families, residents living in areas impacted by juvenile crime, residents living in areas where youth justice facilities are located, and other stakeholders for ideas on how to improve youth justice policies, increase fairness in the system, and make more effective use of resources.

“Governor Murphy established this Task Force as a way to bring everyone to the table to create a blueprint for reforming our youth justice system. The listening sessions are a way for members of the community to make their voices heard in that process,” said Attorney General Gurbir S. Grewal. “The insight and feedback they provide will help guide the Task Force in carrying out its mandate to explore ways of making the system more effective, fair, and just for all.”

The Juvenile Justice Commission has been engaging in groundbreaking work to reduce its incarcerated youth population through the Juvenile Detention Alternatives Initiative and has been designated as a national model for juvenile detention reform by the Annie E. Casey Foundation. Through the Commission’s efforts, and in partnership with the Judiciary, New Jersey has made great strides in modernizing its juvenile justice system. However, issues, including large racial disparities in youth incarceration rates, persist and must be addressed.

In October 2018, Governor Murphy signed an executive order establishing a Task Force to ensure that New Jersey’s juvenile justice system reflects New Jersey’s values, including safety, dignity, and fairness.

The Task Force is comprised of various stakeholders and includes representatives from, among other organizations, the County Prosecutors Association, the Office of the Public Defender, and the New Jersey Institute for Social Justice. It will ultimately provide recommendations to the Governor’s Office, the Department of Law and Public Safety, Executive Branch departments and agencies, and the Legislature regarding how to further improve the state’s juvenile justice system.

To engage the public in that process, the Task Force will hold three listening sessions – one each in the Northern, Central, and Southern regions of the state – to get feedback from members of the community.

The first listening session was scheduled to be held this week in Newark.

“We’re calling on members of the community to share their ideas, experiences and opinions related to New Jersey’s youth justice system and suggest ways to improve it,” said Dr. Jennifer LeBaron, Acting Executive Director of the Juvenile Justice Commission and Chairperson of the Task Force. “We welcome comments about any aspect of the system, but we are particularly interested in feedback on several specific topics of interest.”

Those topics include:

Parole;

Residential Programs;

Stationhouse Adjustments;

Juvenile Justice Commission Secure Care Facilities;

County Youth Services Commissions; and

Investment in Community Based Programs.

Each listening session will open with brief remarks from members of the Task Force regarding several topics of interest. The forum then will be opened for public comment. Oral remarks will be limited to three minutes per person. If you do not wish to identify yourself, you may register and/or speak at the listening sessions anonymously.

The dates and locations of the Listening Sessions are as follows:

Thursday, Jan. 9, from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. at Barringer High School, 90 Parker Street, Newark.

Thursday, Jan. 16, from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. at the James Kerney Campus at Mercer County Community College, 102 N. Broad Street, Trenton.

Thursday, Jan. 23, from 6 p.m.to 8 p.m. at KROC Corps Community Center at 1865 Harrison Avenue, Camden.

For more information or to register for a Listening Session, go to https://nj.gov/oag/youthjustice/