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Meet Our New Member: New Jersey

February 9, 2015
Zoe Schein

The New Jersey Juvenile Justice Reform Coalition (NJJJRC) is a coalition of organizations and prominent individuals working to improve outcomes for youth involved in the justice system.

“One of our main strengths is the diversity of our coalition,” said Craig Levine, Senior Counsel & Policy Director at one of the NJJJRC’s coordinating organizations, the New Jersey Institute for Social Justice. “We have people from law firms, direct service organizations, academia and the nonprofit research and advocacy sector, to name only a few. It’s a broad and growing coalition.”

While various members of the coalition have been working on juvenile justice reform for over a decade, both individually and in various partnerships, the coalition itself was formed in 2013, Levine said.

“Detention reform has been enormously successful in New Jersey,” said Levine, “so the coalition came together to address both what comes before and what comes after detention. That deals with who gets referred to the system and who doesn’t—which implicates zero tolerance and school-to-prison-pipeline issues, police behavior, etc. After detention, we’re looking at post-adjudication kids—what happens to kids who are remanded to the custody of the New Jersey Juvenile Justice Commission. Do they all need to be there? For those who are, are the facilities state-of-the-art? Are the youth treated appropriately?” 

Presently, NJJJRC is involved in a campaign to eliminate the use of punitive isolation in youth facilities, and is working with legislators on a bill that would address issues relating to waiver, isolation, transfer, and continuing jurisdiction. 

“We thought NJJN membership would be a terrific way to be formally part of the national community of juvenile justice reform advocates,” Levine said, “both so we can learn from the work being done in other places and, hopefully, so we can contribute to others what we’ve learned here in New Jersey.”

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