$600k to Damage Our Kids Forever

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Dear New Jersey Institute for Social Justice friend,

“I still remember things from Jamesburg that bring sadness to my mind, sadness to my body.” (Julius Morris)

“Without knowing this whole theory and mystification of hell, I wouldn’t describe it any other way than that. Very hot, very lonely, very confusing, very disturbing the thoughts that enter your mind, like an emotional roller coaster. It teaches you to hate, it cultivates a lot of hate.” (Renaldo Chavis)

Julius Morris and Renaldo Chavis are talking about the time they spent in New Jersey’s youth prisons.

These prisons are part of a deeply broken youth justice system that locks up mostly Black and Brown kids far away from home and traumatizes them, often beginning them on a cycle of recidivism and hopelessness.

Our newly released report, $600k to Damage Our Kids Forever: A Youth Incarceration Disaster, explains that New Jersey plans to spend over $600,000 in the next fiscal year to incarcerate each youth in our antiquated, bloated, and harmful system – a system that incarcerates Black kids at 18 times the rate of white kids, even though they commit most offenses at similar rates.

“Me and the boys were talking about what we were going to do when we got to [adult] prison. We knew we were going to prison. We were 12, 13 years [old and] already had the mindset. I ran into the same people from Jamesburg [at adult prison],” said Mr. Morris.

The report addresses the myriad costs that youth incarceration in New Jersey imposes on individual youth, their families, and the state – financial, emotional, and beyond. It features the stories of people, like Julius and Renaldo, who were impacted by youth incarceration and continue to feel the emotional scars decades later. It also includes words from D.P., a young person who is currently incarcerated and experiencing many challenges.

We hope you will read the report and view some videos of people impacted by our youth prison system.

Then, please take action to tell elected officials it’s time to invest in kids, not prisons.

Thank you, as always, for standing with us.

You can find other opportunities to take action here and donate here.


Yannick Wood

Director, Criminal Justice Reform Program