We call for the passage of a NJ Decarceration Act to deliver large scale reductions in NJ’s state adult and youth prison populations.
This petition had 1,196 supporters
We call for incarceration reductions of 20% in the first 2 years and 50% over 4 years. The legislation should provide for guidelines of offenses for which prisoners should be released (e.g. nonviolent simple possession charges and small scale economic offenses), guidelines for release of those given particular lengths of sentences who served a percentage of their sentence (e.g. release all those sentenced under 6 months, who have served 50% of a term up to 1 year, have served 70% of 1 – 3 years, 80% of 3 – 5 years, etc) as well as those who are beyond a certain age who served a certain percentage of their sentences.
The particulars can be determined with input from communities targeted by mass incarceration.
Funds saved must be channeled into providing jobs, training and services for those exiting the prison system.
We call upon NJ Senators and Assembly persons to address the passage of the NJ Decarceration Act as a high priority emergency as NJ’s targeted communities need immediate relief.
Police enforcement, prosecution and sentencing in NJ is subject to extreme racial and class bias. Most of the population in NJ State Prisons is made up of non-violent drug related simple possession offenses and related charges incurred during arrests for those offenses. Many others are for small scale non-violent economic crimes of survival. Overwhelmingly the prison population in NJ is disproportionately Black, Brown and / or poor.
Mass incarceration takes a tremendous toll on the targeted Black and Brown populations of NJ’s inner cities in undermining family structure and interfering with community organizations and infrastructure. It serves to exacerbate poverty given the large numbers of incarcerated adults in the prime age range of their income generating potential.
Mass incarceration also disenfranchises the targeted communities from playing an active role in defending the interests of these communities as the large numbers of incarcerated could otherwise be playing a role in helping community organizations to fight for the needs of their communities.
While the USA argues on the international stage that it upholds the ideals of freedom, it holds 25% of the world’s prisoners while making up just 6% of the world’s population.
Furthermore it costs the state roughly $53,000 per year to hold a single prisoner and for that cost, prisoners are subject to barely edible food and a lack of safety, unhealthy conditions and subject to rape and sexual assault. According to studies, 50% of sexual assaults on prisoners are carried out by prison personnel. Furthermore, enforcement of laws that have little benefit, such as NJ’s marijuana laws are costly as well. According to an ACLU report, NJ spent $127 million on enforcement of marijuana laws in 2010 alone.
Mass incarceration maintains a system where inner city populations and their communities can continue to be subject to super oppressive exploitation, their communities developed only for the interest of the wealthy and their ability to resist such depravations are curtailed by the tremendous toll of having large portions of their adult and teenage population behind bars or otherwise under control of the criminal justice system.
The NJ Decarceration Act can be a major step toward fighting poverty, rebuilding family and community infrastructure, fortifying community organizations and empowering and enfranchising communities with the ability to assure development of their neighborhoods for the interests of the community instead of toward enriching wealthy outsiders.
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