On January 16, 2018, now-former Gov. Chris Christie signed legislation directing the Office of Legislative Services to prepare racial and ethnic impact statements for each proposed criminal justice bill concerning adults and juveniles. This law arose out of the Legislature’s concern with the disparity between the number of minorities in the population and the number of minorities incarcerated. The Legislature relied on a 2016 report by the New Jersey Institute for Social Justice, Bring Our Children Home: Ain’t I A Child? which revealed that in New Jersey, black juveniles are 24.3 times more likely to be committed to a secure juvenile facility than their white counterparts, and almost 90 percent of youth prosecuted as adults are black or Hispanic. The racial and ethnic community criminal justice and public safety impact statements would be considered tools to guide policymakers in proactively assessing how proposed sentencing initiatives impact racial and ethnic disparities of adults and juveniles in the criminal justice system.
Sponsors of the bill indicated that criminal justice policies, while neutral on their face, often adversely affect minority communities. This new law may assist the Courts, state agencies and Legislature in creating more transparency and accountability within all aspects of the juvenile justice system.
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