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The state wants to transform New Jersey’s juvenile justice system to prioritize treatment, rehabilitation, and education. Existing juvenile detention centers will be closed, replaced by smaller youth development centers as a rehabilitation alternative to incarceration on regional sites.
One of the new youth development centers is proposed for Newark’s West Ward on the former Pabst brewery site, formerly owned by a bank, now in the hands of a private developer.
“I support the closing of youth prisons,” Mayor Ras J. Baraka said in a statement. “Racial disparities in incarceration reflect the systemic racism facing New Jersey’s black and Latino youth. A black or Latino child in our state is much more likely to be detained or incarcerated than a white child, even though research shows that black, Latino, and white kids commit most offenses at similar rates. A new youth prison in Newark is simply not happening.”
Mayor Baraka added, “I support the concept of rehabilitative youth development centers, but existing youth facilities should be renovated for that purpose. Further, New Jersey’s current youth incarceration system is a waste of precious taxpayer dollars, funneling millions each year into largely empty youth prisons.
“Currently, the state spends an estimated $280,000 each year to incarcerate each young person in a state youth prison. And this is so, even though New Jersey’s youth prisons are largely empty. In contrast to this exorbitant spending on youth prisons, New Jersey spends only around $16 million each year on community-based programs to keep kids out of the youth justice system.
“New Jersey’s youth incarceration system does not significantly reduce recidivism or increase public safety. Of the 377 youth released from commitment in state youth facilities in 2014, 76.9% had a new court filing or arrest, 58.9% had a new adjudication or conviction, and almost one-fourth (23.9%) were recommitted within three years of release.
“Studies show that children who are incarcerated in the youth justice system are also much more likely to be incarcerated as adults. The money saved by closing youth prisons and not constructing new buildings should be invested in strategic and comprehensive community engagement programs, such as our newly formed Brick City Peace Collective and alternative policing strategies.”