Annually, over 53,000 youth are prosecuted and sentenced as adults in the United States, a practice that research has shown is tremendously harmful to young people and that undermines public safety.
New Jersey law mandates that youth waived to the adult prison system must be protected from solitary confinement and should be given the opportunity to be incarcerated in a juvenile prison until the age of 21. Yet New Jersey children who are tried as adults continue to be subjected to inhumane conditions such as solitary confinement, regardless of their mental health status, and are incarcerated in an adult prison upon sentencing, regardless of their age. Please join the New Jersey Parents’ Caucus and other organizations throughout the state and country in demanding a legislative hearing to investigate the state’s noncompliance with laws that protect youth in adult prisons.
In 2015 and 2019, New Jersey passed the following provisions aimed at reducing the number of youths sent to adult prisons and increasing protections for children:
o Increased the age a child can be waived to adult court from 14 to 15 years old,
o Limited the scope of offenses that could result in a child being sent to adult court,
o Created a presumption that children waived to adult court should remain in youth facilities until they reach the age of 21, unless good cause is shown; Public Law 2015, C. 89.
o Expressly prohibited the use of solitary confinement for people under the age of 21, over the age of 65, individuals with disabilities, pregnant women, and those who identify as LGBTQ; Public Law 2019, C. 160.
These reforms were created to protect our children by reducing exposure to harm and increasing access to restorative programming.
However, the Juvenile Justice Commission, Department of Corrections, and the State of New Jersey has failed to comply with these laws according to first-hand accounts from parents, caregivers and NJPC Youth Caucus members who are currently incarcerated:
o A New Jersey Parents’ Caucus (NJPC) Youth Caucus member, Samuel, reports being waived into the adult court system at the age of 17 and incarcerated in an adult prison at the age of 19. According to the law, he should be held in a juvenile facility until the age of 21 unless good cause is shown. The JJC has not provided that data on their website as required by the law. In addition, Sam is one of over 200 youth who have been placed in an adult prison immediately upon sentencing.
o James, NJPC Youth Caucus member, was waived and incarcerated in the adult prison system at the age of 16 and sentenced at the age of 19. For the past 11 months, James and his mother report him being held in solitary confinement despite having four documented mental health diagnoses. As a member of a vulnerable population, he should NEVER be subjected to solitary confinement. He describes the barbaric living conditions of being locked in a room for 23 hours a day, stating that the rooms are falling apart with rats and bugs everywhere, and showers are only allowed once every three days.
We can no longer be quiet and wait for someone to ensure accountability of our legal system! Youth like James in vulnerable populations who struggle with mental health disorders continue to experience more than 60 consecutive days in solitary confinement.
Youth are experiencing inhumane living conditions and the Juvenile Justice Commission is sending most of the kids under the age of 21 to the adult prison system. New Jersey’s Juvenile Justice Commission and Department of Corrections are NOT complying with the law!
Sign our petition to demand that the Senate and General Assembly of the State of New Jersey schedule an investigatory hearing in order to hold New Jersey’s Juvenile Justice Commission and Department of Corrections accountable for these injustices!
You can sign our petition at the following link: https://chng.it/jThsxQp7mY