Activists Call on NJPAC to Remove ‘ICE Profiteer’ from Board and Gov. Murphy to #FreeThemAll
Will Hold “People’s Gala” in Newark on Saturday
Newark, NJ – On October 3rd, beginning at 6 pm, activists, advocates and affected people will gather outside NJPAC for, what organizers are calling the People’s Gala. Organizers say that NJPAC is not living up to its claims of “encouraging everyone to to take part in the movement to ensure civil rights for all,” while the co-chair of their gala this Saturday is Governor Murphy, who has presided over the highest Covid-19 prison death rate in the country and while its board includes the owner of a migrant jail. Anne Evans Estabrook has profited from ICE detention in New Jersey for 25 years, thanks to her real estate corporation’s lease on the Elizabeth Detention Center. The event will include speakers from American Friends Service Committee, Newark Water Coalition, Movimiento Cosecha, The New Black Panther Party and North New Jersey Democratic Socialists of America as well as musical performances. Food will be provided by Brick City Mutual Aid who will also be collecting collect soft-covered books to redistribute to incarcerated people. The People’s Gala is timed to coincide with the NJPAC annual spotlight gala.
While Murphy is often praised for his handling of the coronavirus pandemic, advocates for incarcerated people have little praise for his performance. “It is unconscionable that Governor Murphy—whose inaction contributed directly to one of the worst health crises to ever hit New Jersey’s prison system—is now taking his time signing the bill that would release thousands during the ongoing public health emergency. Despite claims by the Department of Corrections, who have failed to respond to this pandemic in timely, humane, and transparent ways, the virus continues to spread among those in New Jersey prisons. The legislature has voted in favor of this urgent bill. On behalf of the families of our incarcerated neighbors, we urge the Governor to do the right thing and pass S2519 without further delay,” said Pastor Amos Caley of NJ Prison Justice Watch. Murphy has yet to sign the Public Health Emergency Credit Bill which was voted out of the legislature last week.
Earlier this year, activists exposed the fact that Ms. Estabrook’s company, Elberon Development Group, is the owner of the notorious migrant jail, the Elizabeth Detention Center. Her company leases the building to CoreCivic, which, in turn, contracts with ICE to incarcerate as many as 320 people at a time. Jake Ephros, an organizer with New Jersey Advocates for Immigrant Detainees related the news of whistleblower complaint out of Georgia with ICE facilities in NJ- “the stories from the women at the Irwin County Detention Facility unfortunately only speak to the consistent brutality that’s endemic to ICE detention and incarceration everywhere. We shouldn’t celebrate powerful people who ignore this horrific system, let alone those who profit from it,”
Ms. Estabrook is regularly recognized for her philanthropic endeavors and career is celebrated on the NJPAC website, but her business practices run counter to notions of social justice and equity that NJPAC promotes. Advocates have long called for the closure of the Elizabeth Detention Center as well as other private and government-run detention centers. As dangerous, unsanitary conditions and protocols have caused people at Elizabeth to suffer from COVID-19, four people at imminent risk of serious illness and death from the virus filed a class-action lawsuit on May 15, 2020 demanding the immediate release of all immigrants locked up in EDC.
“It’s easy to condemn the cruel policies of Donald Trump and the ICE detention camps in Georgia, but it is much harder to admit that the genocidal acts of ICE are part of the prison industrial complex that brutalizes primarily Black and Brown people right here in New Jersey. We will not let Governor Murphy shirk his responsibility to incarcerated people whether they are jailed by the state or by ICE . We also won’t stand for institutions that claim to support civil rights while they turn a blind eye to board members who profit from putting people in cages, ” said Karl Schwartz, a resident of Newark and an organizer with North Jersey Democratic Socialists of America.