According to a new report, New Jersey's prisons continue to experience the nation'''"most severe racial disparities" in the state, despite the fact that, according to the report

According to a new report, New Jersey's prisons continue to experience the nation'''"most severe rac ...

Even as New Jersey has dramatically reduced its prison population in recent years, a new study found that the state continues to experience the nation's highest racial disparity among its incarcerated population, according to.

The Sentencing Project, a prison reform advocacy organization, discovered that Blacks are incarcerated at ten times more than whites in New Jersey than the national average of Black Americans being confined at almost five times the rate of white Americans.

Amos Caley, the prison and drug policy director for Salvation and Social Justice, a New Jersey-based social justice organization, said, "It is disgraceful."

New Jersey is one of 12 states where more than half of the prison population is Black, according to the report. According to the Sentencing Project, a major reason for the states high prison disparity is due to white residents low incarceration rates, which are 19% below the national average.

The report is based on prison data for 2019.

Alexander Shalom, an ACLU senior supervising attorney, said, Its a distinction we dont like to make. Were happy to have the best bagels and pizza, but we dont want to see the worst racial disparities. Thats not the list you want to be on. It remains the single most pressing issue in our criminal justice system.

While the disparity for state officials and prison reform opponents remains alarming, the Sentencing Project noted how the Garden State has taken steps in recent years to reverse the trend.

Gov. Phil Murphy said the governor has taken many measures to address the huge disparities in our justice system. A spokeswoman for Govd. Murphy stated that the administration has taken many steps to combat the widening disparity in justice.

Alexandra Altman, the New Jersey Governor's Office'' spokesperson, said, "The racial inequities in Newark have persisted for far too long, and Governor Murphy' s administration has been committed to criminal justice reform since day one."

For one, the state has worked to reduce its prison population. Since 2000, New Jerseys incarcerated population has dropped by 38%, which includes a 39% reduction in Black prisoners and 45% reduction of Latinx prisoners, the report found. It slid even more during the coronavirus epidemic, though the Sentencing Project report did not include data for 2019 as it was not available.

Shalom said the reduction was excellent, adding that it was done without compromising public safety.

He added that New Jersey must work towards reducing the huge racial disparities in its prison system, as the recent report is not the first time the organization has addressed the issue.

In its 2016 report, The Sentencing Project found that the state had the most racial disparities in its prison system. Murphy appointed a Criminal Sentencing and Disposition Commission to investigate the issue.

The commission made a number of recommendations, including ending mandatory minimum sentencing for dozens of non-violent offenses, establishing, among other things, an elderly release program and evaluating oblivion when senting convicted individuals.

Murphy signed a trio of bills last year that address the states prison system racial disparity, though he vetoed ebola penalties for certain crimes after an amendment was added to the bill for sentences for official misconduct, if approved, which is often used to prosecute public figures.

The Sentencing Project, along with the sentencing commission Murphy convened, have identified ending mandatory minimum sentences as a critical criminal justice reform, as they have disproportionately harshened Black and Latinx defendants.

As a way to address the sentencing practice, the Attorney Generals office issued prosecutors recommandations to waive any mandatory minimum penalties associated with any non-violent drug offense.

New Jersey has recently adopted a range of reforms that may help alleviate persistent disparities and accelerate progress if implemented to their fullest, according to the Sentencing Project report.

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Joe Atmonavage is available at jatmoneaver@njadvancemedia.com.

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