Trenton – Senator Shirley Turner and Senator Nellie Pou were joined by advocates and communities leaders today for a conversation on the importance of efforts to expand restorative justice programs in the state. The Senators highlighted legislation they have championed to establish a Restorative and Transformative Justice Pilot Program and heard from participants on what more can be done to further improve New Jersey’s juvenile justice policies.
“Restorative justice and transformative justice programs have been nationally recognized as the best way to keep young people out of the criminal justice system and successfully reintegrate them into their communities after being released from out-of-home placements,” said Senator Turner (D-Mercer/Hunterdon). “This program would aim to develop innovative restorative and transformative justice continuums of care in Camden, Newark, Paterson and Trenton that offer both individual support services and spaces to foster systemic change. It was great to hear from leading advocates on why this legislation is important to them and discuss what more can be done when the Legislature returns in the fall.”
The bill, S-2924, was sent to the Governor in June and is currently awaiting final approval. Under the bill, the program would focus on reducing youth involvement with the juvenile justice system. The bill would appropriate $8.4 million in FY2022 and FY2023.
“Our youth justice system devastated our children before the pandemic and is devastating them more now,” said Senator Pou (D-Bergen/Passaic). “I have worked hard, alongside my colleagues in the legislature, to improve the conditions within our youth facilities but the true path toward change is in our communities, where restorative justice and other programs like the ones covered in this legislation will keep our kids out of the system in the first place and give them an opportunity to be cared for and thrive. It was wonderful to meet in person with individuals who have played an integral role in crafting our juvenile justice legislation to discuss its impact and hear what their priorities are for the end of the 2020-2021 Legislative Session.”
The roundtable included Laura Cohen from the Rutgers Center on Criminal Justice, Youth Rights and Race, Fred Fogg from Youth Advocate Programs, Inc., Kristina Kersey, Esq. from the National Juvenile Defender Center, Natalie Kraner, Esq. from the Center for the Public Interest, Retha Onitiri and Yannick Wood from the NJ Institute for Social Justice, Alexander Shalom from the American Civil Liberties Union and Ben Thornton from Anchor House.