SENATE, No. 2924

STATE OF NEW JERSEY

219th LEGISLATURE

 

INTRODUCED SEPTEMBER 17, 2020

 


 

Sponsored by:

Senator  SHIRLEY K. TURNER

District 15 (Hunterdon and Mercer)

Senator  NELLIE POU

District 35 (Bergen and Passaic)

 

Co-Sponsored by:

Senators Ruiz, Cruz-Perez and Scutari

 

 

 

 

SYNOPSIS

     Creates two-year “Restorative and Transformative Justice for Youths and Communities Pilot Program” in Juvenile Justice Commission focused on reducing youth involvement with youth justice system; appropriates $8.4 million in FY 2021 and FY 2022.

 

CURRENT VERSION OF TEXT

     As introduced.

  


An Act creating a two-year restorative and transformative justice pilot program focused on reducing initial and repeat youth involvement with the youth justice system, and making an appropriation.

 

     Be It Enacted by the Senate and General Assembly of the State of New Jersey:

 

     1.    The Legislature finds and declares that:

     a.     Currently, New Jersey’s youth justice system has staggering racial justice disparities, high recidivism rates, and grossly underfunded community-based services;

     b.    New Jersey has the highest Black to white youth incarceration racial disparity rate in the country with a Black youth twenty-one times more likely to be detained or committed than a white youth, even though research shows that Black and white youth commit most offenses at similar rates;

     c.     New Jersey also has the fourth highest Latina-Latino to white youth incarceration disparity rate in the country;

     d.    The recidivism rates in New Jersey are devastating as well. Of the 377 youth released from State juvenile facilities in 2014, 76.9 percent had a subsequent arrest or court filing, 58.9 percent had a subsequent adjudication or conviction, and almost one-fourth, 23.9 percent, were recommitted to a facility within three years of release; 

     e.     Yet, despite these failures, New Jersey continues to finance its youth incarceration system at exorbitant cost. In calendar year 2020, New Jersey plans to spend $300,000 to incarcerate each youth in a State secure juvenile facility managed and operated by the Juvenile Justice Commission, and projects the same expenditure in calendar year 2021;

     f.     While the State currently spends approximately $56 million a year to operate its three secure juvenile facilities, it only allocates around $16 million to provide counties with funding for community-based youth programs;

     g.    The current public health crisis resulting from the Coronavirus disease 2019 pandemic, also referred to as the COVID-19 pandemic, has further illustrated the failures of our youth justice system by detrimentally harming our impacted youth. As of August 20, 2020, according to the Juvenile Justice Commission, 29 youth and 56 staff in juvenile facilities have tested positive for the virus SARS-CoV-2 which causes COVID-19; 21 of the 29 youth cases occurred at the New Jersey Training School, also known as  Jamesburg, the State’s largest secure facility for youthful males;

     h.    The Juvenile Justice Commission has taken several measures to mitigate the spread of the virus, including releasing approximately 38 incarcerated youth from its facilities.  Should Senate Bill No. 2519, passed by the Senate on August 27, 2020, or its counterpart bill, Assembly Bill No. 4235, become law, more incarcerated youths would be released in an expedited fashion because their terms of incarceration would be reduced based on awards of credits during the current declared public health emergency concerning the COVID-19 pandemic;

     i.     As young people are released from facilities in response to the current pandemic, it is clear that the State must actively engage communities and properly fund services to reintegrate these youth back into their communities successfully;

     j.     The Juvenile Justice Commission and community stakeholders should also work together to create community-based public safety systems that divert young people away from the youth justice system in the first place;

     k.    Thus, the confluence of the COVID-19 pandemic with the on-going, fervent call for racial equality demands a fresh and immediate need to transform New Jersey’s youth justice system. As an alternative to an overreliance on punishment, New Jersey needs a community-based system that embraces restorative and transformative justice practices and emphasizes physical, psychological and emotional safety and healing for youth, their families and communities;

     l.     Nationally, restorative justice and transformative justice programs and practices have been recognized as best practices in keeping young people out of the youth justice system and successfully reintegrating them into their home communities after being released from out-of-home placements; 

     m.   Restorative justice is a system that brings victims, community members, and youth who have committed harm together to discuss the harm that was done and explore solutions to address the root cause of that harm. This system presents an alternate avenue for addressing harm and encourages active participation in the restorative process to facilitate stronger community relationships and community-driven public safety; 

     n.    Transformative justice addresses conflicts and harms at the individual level, community level, and within broader social structures. Transformative justice works to build alternatives to our current systems and transform the conditions which help create acts of violence or make them possible;

     o.    Restorative justice and transformative justice offer two different perspectives of justice aimed at interpersonal and consensual resolutions, with transformative justice also incorporating systems-level change; 

     p.    To sufficiently support young people being released from juvenile facilities in response to the current public health crisis, and to provide adequate resources to prevent young people in New Jersey from entering the youth justice system in the first instance, New Jersey should explore, through a pilot program, the development of a comprehensive youth continuum of care based on restorative and transformative justice practices.

 

     2.    There is established in the Juvenile Justice Commission, created by section 2 of P.L.1995, c.284 (C.52:17B-170), a two-year pilot program, titled the “Restorative and Transformative Justice for Youths and Communities Pilot Program.”  The purpose of the pilot program is to develop innovative restorative and transformative justice continuums of care in four target cities that include two components: community-based enhanced reentry wraparound services and restorative justice hubs. The pilot program shall be established in the municipalities of Camden, Newark, Paterson, and Trenton. 

     a.     The first component of the pilot program shall include community-based enhanced reentry wraparound services. These services shall be designed as an emergency response for those young people being released from juvenile facilities due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and may also serve as a long-term program for all young people released from a facility.  Community-based enhanced reentry wraparound services shall include, but not be limited to, the following services and supports: 

     (1)   Mental health services;

     (2)   Substance use disorders treatment and recovery;

     (3)   Education support;

     (4)   Employment services;

     (5)   Housing support;

     (6)   Financial literacy and debt support services;

     (7)   Life skills support services; and

     (8)   Social support services.

     b.    The second component of the pilot program shall include restorative justice hubs, which are physical spaces within the community where youth and families can heal, reconnect and build healthy relationships in the community. The purpose of restorative justice hubs is to resolve local conflicts through dialogue instead of punitive measures, connect youth and families to a variety of services and programs, and coordinate service delivery across the community, and by doing so create and maintain equitable relationships between the Juvenile Justice Commission, county youth services commissions, courts, State and municipal public defenders, prosecutors and law enforcement, and additionally, collaboration on public safety initiatives.    

     c.     The goals of the pilot program shall be:

     (1)   To increase participation in education, vocational programming, and employment. Youth participants in the pilot program shall receive academic support, depending on personal development goals, and shall be connected to secondary schools, alternative schools, vocational schools, apprenticeship programs and colleges and universities.  The program shall collaborate with local community college’s admissions and academic support programs, and offer workshops that include financial aid planning.  Participants seeking employment shall be linked to vocational or job readiness training.  The selected partner-providers participating in the pilot program shall be trained in and utilize evidence-based and evidence-informed practices with respect to the provision of their respective services;

     (2)   To increase participation in mental health and well-being programming.  The program shall employ trauma-informed practices and connect youth to licensed outpatient mental health care facilities and professionals.  The program shall create safe, caring environments to address physical health, mental health and substance use disorder conditions and facilitate healing for youth, families, and communities.

     (3)   To decrease incidents of harmful and unlawful behavior.  The program shall work with youth to comply with their probation or parole plan, as applicable. Moreover, the program shall employ trauma-informed practices, violence reduction, and peacemaking supports and tools to address harmful and unlawful behavior;

     (4)   To improve the socioemotional and behavioral responses of youth within communities through the use of more appropriate, and less punitive, interventions, thereby establishing more restorative interventions; and

     (5)   To increase program participation rates in other restorative and transformative justice programs in the municipalities in which the pilot program is established.

 

     3.  a.  (1)     The county youth services commissions for the counties in which the municipalities participating in the pilot program are located shall implement their existing request for proposal process in order to select service providers to develop and implement the program.  

     (2)   Persons and organizations interested in developing and implementing aspects of the program in a participating municipality shall submit a proposal using the existing request for proposal process to the appropriate youth services commission.

     b.    All proposals shall include concrete measurements for success to assess the impact of the program and include outcomes related to positive youth development, reduction in harmful behavior, and community engagement.

     c.     In addition to the pilot program requirements set forth in subsections a. and b. of section 2 of this act, concerning mandatory components of enhanced reentry wraparound services and restorative justice hubs, a proposal may also include, and a youth services commission may consider and accept for the program, additional services and training that support the development and implementation of restorative justice and transformative justice practices in the participating municipalities.

     d.    Persons and organizations selected as service providers shall collaborate with the service providers of any education pilot programs operating in the participating municipalities during the time the pilot program established by this act is operating, in order to incorporate restorative justice and transformative justice practices within that education pilot program.

     e.     Person and organizations selected as service providers may seek additional monies from any public or private source to further advance the goals of the pilot program.

 

     4.    There is established within the General Fund a separate, temporary dedicated fund to be known as the “Restorative and Transformative Justice for Youths and Communities Pilot Program Fund,”  to be held separate and apart from all other funds of the State.  This fund shall be administered and the monies in the fund distributed by the Juvenile Justice Commission.  From the monies appropriated under the category of juvenile services for the Department of Law and Public Safety in State fiscal year 2021 and State fiscal year 2022, $8,400,000 in each fiscal year shall be credited to this fund, and these monies, and any interest or other income earned thereon, shall only be used for purposes associated with the pilot program established by this act.   

     a.     (1)  Notwithstanding the provisions of the “Administrative Procedure Act,” P.L.1968, c.410 (C.52:14B-1 et seq.), to the contrary, the Juvenile Justice Commission, shall, within 30 days of the effective date of this act, file proper notice with the Office of Administrative Law, and thereafter immediately adopt rules and regulations prepared by the commission necessary or proper to setting the terms and conditions of applying for grants paid for by monies in the fund, the distribution of those monies, and for publishing these terms and conditions on its official website.  Following the adoption of the rules and regulations, the commission shall also schedule at least one public meeting in the north, central, and southern regions of the State to announce the pilot  program, and inform the public of the adopted rules and regulations for grant applications and distributions.

     (2)   The initial rules and regulations adopted pursuant to paragraph (1) of this subsection shall be in effect for the duration of the two-year pilot program, unless the commission determines it is necessary to amend or repeal any initial rule or regulation, which it may do on an expedited basis immediately upon filing proper notice with the Office of Administrative Law, notwithstanding the provisions of the “Administrative Procedure Act,” P.L.1968, c.410 (C.52:14B-1 et seq.), to the contrary.

     b.    The fund shall be used to provide grants to participating service providers selected by the county youth services commissions pursuant to section 3 of this act to develop and implement the pilot program established by this act.  Priority in distributing monies in the fund shall be given to service providers located in or intending to work with youth from those municipalities participating in the pilot program with a higher rate of youth committed to a secure juvenile facility.

     c.     No more than 10 percent of the monies in the fund shall be used for administrative purposes.

     d.    Monies in the fund administered and distributed by the Juvenile Justice Commission shall not replace any other funds administered and distributed by the commission, including those administered and distributed through the State/Community Partnership Grant Program established pursuant to P.L.1995, c.283 (C.52:17B-179 et al.).

     e.     At the conclusion of the two-year pilot program, any monies remaining in the fund shall be transferred to the Juvenile Justice Commission for use in administering the State/Community Partnership Grant Program established pursuant to P.L.1995, c.283 (C.52:17B-179 et al.), and funding grants distributed through that program.

 

     5.    The Juvenile Justice Commission shall submit a report to the Governor and, pursuant to section 2 of P.L.1991, c.164 (C.52:14-19.1), to the Legislature at the conclusion of the two-year pilot program, containing information on the development and implementation of the pilot program and the feasibility of expanding the program to other municipalities in the State.  The report shall also include copies of any reports by service providers selected to develop and implement the pilot program by the county youth services commissions for the counties in which the municipalities participating in the pilot program are located pursuant to section 3 of this act.

 

     6.    This act shall take effect immediately, and shall expire 30 days following the Juvenile Justice Commission’s submission of the report to the Governor and Legislature as required by section 5 of this act.

 

 

STATEMENT

 

     This bill would establish a two-year pilot program in the Juvenile Justice Commission, which would assist with the reintegration of youths released from juvenile facilities to prevent repeated involvement with the youth justice system and to help youths avoid any initial involvement with such system; the program would be titled the “Restorative and Transformative Justice for Youths and Communities Pilot Program.”  The program would be designed to help provide ways the Juvenile Justice Commission and communities directly impacted by the State’s current harmful juvenile justice policies can transform New Jersey’s youth justice system – during the current public health crisis caused by the Coronavirus disease 2019 pandemic, also referred to as the COVID-19 pandemic, and potentially beyond – based on a restorative justice and transformative justice approach.

     Nationally, restorative justice and transformative justice programs and practices have been recognized as best practices in keeping young people out of the youth justice system and successfully reintegrating them into their home communities after being released from out-of-home placements. Restorative justice is a system that brings victims, community members, and youth who have committed harm together to discuss the harm that was done and explore solutions to address the root cause of that harm.  This system presents an alternate avenue for addressing harm and encourages active participation in the restorative process to facilitate stronger community relationships and community-driven public safety. Transformative justice addresses conflicts and harms at the individual level, community level, and within broader social structures. Transformative justice works to build alternatives to our current systems and transform the conditions which help create acts of violence or make them possible.  Both restorative justice and transformative justice offer different perspectives of justice aimed at interpersonal and consensual resolutions, with transformative justice also incorporating systems-level change.

      The purpose of the pilot program would be to develop innovative restorative and transformative justice continuums of care in four target cities, Camden, Newark, Paterson, and Trenton, that include two components: community-based enhanced reentry wraparound services and restorative justice hubs.  Community-based enhanced reentry wraparound services would include, but not be limited to, services and supports, such as:  mental health services; substance use disorders treatment and recovery; life skills support; and other social support services.  Restorative justice hubs would be physical spaces within the community where youth and families could heal, reconnect and build healthy relationships in the community, and help resolve local conflicts through dialogue instead of punitive measures.  By doing so, such hubs are intended to create and maintain equitable relationships between the Juvenile Justice Commission, county youth services commissions, courts, State and municipal public defenders, prosecutors and law enforcement, and additionally, collaboration on public safety initiatives.

     For the youth participants, the overall goals of the pilot program would be to: increase participation in education, vocational programming, and employment, which would be aided by the program service providers being trained in and utilizing evidence-based and evidence-informed practices with respect to the provision of their respective services; increase participation in mental health and well-being programming; decrease incidents of harmful and unlawful behavior; improve the socioemotional and behavioral responses of youth within communities through the use of more appropriate, and less punitive, interventions, thereby establishing more restorative interventions; and increase program participation rates in other restorative and transformative justice programs in the municipalities in which the pilot program is established.

     As to the development and implementation of the pilot program, the county youth services commissions for the counties in which the municipalities participating in the pilot program are located would implement their existing request for proposal process in order to solicit proposals from interested persons and organizations and select from among them the service providers to work on the program.  All submitted proposals would have to include concrete measurements for success to assess the impact of the program and include outcomes related to positive youth development, reduction in harmful behavior, and community engagement.  Also, in addition to supplying information in proposals about the mandatory program components of enhanced reentry wraparound services and restorative justice hubs, proposals could include offers to provide additional services and training that support the development and implementation of restorative justice and transformative justice practices in the participating municipalities.  The selected service providers for the pilot program would be required to collaborate with the service providers of any education pilot programs operating in the participating municipalities during the time the pilot program operated, in order to incorporate restorative justice and transformative justice practices within that education pilot program.

     Funding for the pilot program would come from taking $8,400,000 in State fiscal year 2021 and State fiscal year 2022 that is appropriated under the category of juvenile services for the Department of Law and Public Safety, and crediting it to a separate, temporary dedicated fund to be known as the “Restorative and Transformative Justice for Youths and Communities Pilot Program Fund.”  This fund would be administered and the monies in the fund distributed as grants to selected service providers by the Juvenile Justice Commission.  All monies in the fund, and any interest or other income earned thereon, would only be used for purposes associated with the pilot program established by the bill; and no more than 10 percent of the monies in the fund could be used for administrative purposes.   

     Notwithstanding the provisions of the “Administrative Procedure Act,” P.L.1968, c.410 (C.52:14B-1 et seq.), to the contrary, the Juvenile Justice Commission, would, within 30 days of the bill taking effect (immediately), file proper notice with the Office of Administrative Law, and thereafter immediately adopt rules and regulations prepared by the commission necessary or proper to setting the terms and conditions of applying for grants paid for by monies in the fund, the distribution of those monies, and for publishing these terms and conditions on its official website.  Following the adoption of the rules and regulations, the commission would also schedule at least one public meeting in the north, central, and southern regions of the State to announce the pilot  program, and inform the public of the adopted rules and regulations for grant applications and distributions.  The initially adopted rules and regulations would be in effect for the duration of the two-year pilot program, unless the commission determined it to be necessary to amend or repeal any such rule or regulation, which it could do on an expedited basis.

     Priority in distributing grants using monies in the fund would be given to service providers located in or intending to work with youth from those municipalities participating in the pilot program with a higher rate of youth committed to a secure juvenile facility.  Additionally, the bill notes that monies in the fund administered and distributed by the Juvenile Justice Commission would not replace any other funds administered and distributed by the commission, including those administered and distributed through the State/Community Partnership Grant Program established pursuant to P.L.1995, c.283 (C.52:17B-179 et al.).  At the conclusion of the two-year pilot program, any monies remaining in the fund would be transferred to the commission for use in administering the State/Community Partnership Grant Program, and funding grants distributed through that program.

     The Juvenile Justice Commission would be required to submit a report to the Governor and, pursuant to section 2 of P.L.1991, c.164 (C.52:14-19.1), to the Legislature at the conclusion of the pilot program, containing information on the development and implementation of the program and the feasibility of expanding the program to other municipalities in the State.  The report would also include copies of any reports by service providers selected to develop and implement the pilot program by the county youth services commissions for the counties in which the municipalities participating in the pilot program are located.  Thirty days after that report was filed, the bill’s provisions would expire.