TRENTON – Legislation sponsored by Senator Ronald L. Rice and Senator Shirley K. Turner requiring that a racial and ethnic impact statement be attached to certain types of legislation, cleared the Senate today.
The bill S-677, would require a racial and ethnic impact statement for each proposed criminal justice bill, resolution, or amendment that would affect pretrial detention, sentencing, probation, or parole policies in this State be prepared by the Office of Legislative Services prior to any vote being taken on the bill, resolution, or amendment in either House of the Legislature.
“We must recognize that certain policies have a disproportionate impact on minority communities, particularly those related to criminal justice,” said Senator Rice (D-Essex). “The purpose of this is for legislators and rule makers to be informed of the possible implications of new legislation or rules for racial and ethnic minorities so that we are not inadvertently creating additional harm for these populations.”
“Legislation and state established rules can have consequences that may not be readily apparent,” said Senator Turner (D- Hunterdon-Mercer). “These steps in evaluating the racial and ethnic impact of legislative and executive actions is vital to ensuring we are not creating unintended disparities in our criminal justice system.”
The racial and ethnic impact statement would include a statistical analysis of how the change in policy would affect racial and ethnic minorities. State agencies would be required to provide relevant data to assist the Office of Legislative Services in preparing these racial and ethnic impact statements.
The bill would also require all State agencies to produce a racial and ethnic impact statement for any proposed agency rule that affects pretrial detention, sentencing, probation, or parole policies. Under the bill, the proposed rule would be reviewed by the Criminal Sentencing and Disposition Commission. If the commission determined that the proposed rule may have a significant adverse impact on racial and ethnic minorities, the rule proposing agency is to be so notified. The agency is then obligated to consult with the commission before formally adopting the rule.
The governor recommended inclusion of underlying rationale for any disparate or unique impact on racial and ethnic minorities for such impact; a complete analysis to assess the broader public safety impact on the affected racial and ethnic communities and the impact of the measures on the victims and potential victims in those communities.
A report issued by The Sentencing Project in June 2016 found that New Jersey has the largest gap between black and white incarceration rates of any state in the country. While New Jersey has been a national leader in reducing its prison population generally, the report found that black residents are still incarcerated at 12 times the rate of white residents. Additionally, the report highlighted that, while New Jersey’s overall population is less than 15 percent black, its prison population is more than 60 percent black.
The bill, which includes recommendations contained in a conditional veto cleared the full Senate with a vote of 39-0, and will now head to the Assembly for further consideration.