New Jersey Institute for Social Justice

Apply HERE (Applications due February 17, 2017)


Location: Newark, NJ

Address of Internship: 60 Park Place, Suite 511 Newark, NJ 07102

Position Description

The interns’ work will focus primarily on three areas: juvenile justice reform, prisoner reentry, and assisting with tasks related to the Institute’s role on the federal monitoring team overseeing reforms of the Newark Police Department. Juvenile Justice The Institute played a central role in bringing the Juvenile Detention Alternatives Initiative (“JDAI”), the leading national program for reducing unnecessary juvenile detention, to New Jersey. We served on the program’s statewide steering committee from inception to date, and served as the program’s convener/facilitator in Essex, among the pilot counties, for the initial two years, until the program was sufficiently embedded. JDAI has now spread to 19 of the 21 New Jersey counties, and has widespread public support at all levels of government.  In addition, New Jersey’s system is the national model for statewide implementation of detention reform – teams fly in from around the country to learn how to do this work well. How significant has the improvement been? In Essex County, comparing the year before JDAI to the first half of 2013, detention has declined by a remarkable 73% -- and youth are successfully completing the detention alternative programs at rates approaching 80%. Nearly 3,000 years of detention nights have been avoided, and childhoods saved, in this one county alone. But the successes of detention reform have not yet led to any appreciable improvement in the other half of New Jersey’s system, the post-adjudication portion commonly referred to as the “deep end.” Some of the facilities remain enormous and archaic. The modality with which the youth therein are treated is decidedly retrograde. Mental health and educational needs, and rights, are routinely ignored. Punitive isolation is widely employed. And the results – as best they can be known, reliable data being a threshold challenge – are dismal: high recidivism rates and adult corrections involvement, from a system spending approximately $140,000 per year per child. In addition to the problems plaguing the “deep end” juvenile facilities, New Jersey’s students are all too often ensnared in what has been referred to as “the school-to-prison pipeline” – the cumulative effect of a set of policies that push students out of classrooms and into the juvenile justice system. Many of New Jersey’s Schools employ zero-tolerance policies – automatic and severe suspensions for conduct violations regardless of the circumstances – and hallway policing, both of which increase the likelihood that students will be arrested and charged with an offense. These policies have a disproportionate effect on students from lower income communities and students of color. And, to this point, racial disparities plague New Jersey’s juvenile justice system.  In our state, Black children are 24 times more likely to be committed than white youth.  Correspondingly, Black youth are less likely to be diverted than their white counterparts.  As a result, Black children are disproportionately represented in the state’s juvenile facilities.  This incarceration in turn generally leads to a continued cycle of recidivism, the detrimental effects of which Black children disproportionately bear.   In 2016-2017, the Institute intends to roll out a number of juvenile justice reports on topics ranging from racial disparities in the system to addressing issues with the school-to-prison pipeline.  The interns will perform research for these reports.  In addition, the interns will perform research for and participate in a statewide juvenile justice advocacy coalition – led by the Institute – that will address the full range of detention and school-to-prison-pipeline reform issues. These issues will be addressed by multiple means, strategically deployed to best meet each goal, including without limitation: identifying national best practices; filing petitions for rule-making; commenting on draft rules, laying the groundwork for legislative reform, including bill-drafting; impact litigation; and designing model programs. The project will be multivariate because the problem is complex. Reentry   The Interns will also work on a range of projects regarding prisoner reentry in New Jersey, a subject with which NJISJ has been engaged for many years. This work encompasses program development, policy, legislative advocacy, and public education. The Interns will engage in the full range of these activities. Newark has one of the highest concentrations of ex-offenders of any city in the United States. The failure to integrate these individuals into the economic life of the city has dramatic effects on city-wide development. The number of people moving between prison and Newark neighborhoods undoubtedly depresses the local labor market. In particular, a large group of adult males who are expressly barred from certain positions, and face discrimination in the job market generally, drags down the average wage for the city, which in turn negatively impacts property values, consumer spending, and the ability to attract new businesses. The Institute has led the charge to “Ban the Box,” which removes questions about criminal records from employment applications and restricts the use of criminal histories in hiring decisions. Nearly one in four adults has some criminal history; Newark alone has the highest number of parolees per capita in the country. Criminal record questions serve as barriers to employment for anyone with a history, disproportionately affecting minority applicants. As a result, Newark passed the most comprehensive Ban the Box ordinance in the country in September 2012, and the State of New Jersey passed similar legislation earlier this year. However, even with the bill’s passage, there will remain a comprehensive web of categorical exclusions that close off employment opportunities to people with criminal records; New Jersey has at least 22 categories of jobs for which certain criminal convictions serve as an absolute bar to employment.

Examples of specific responsibilities, projects, tasks, and/or duties of the Intern Include:

The interns will work on compiling data on other states’ employment disqualifications and licensure bars for individuals with criminal records, recent reforms, and procedures for taking into account factors such as the age of the conviction and evidence of rehabilitation in lifting these bars. Additionally, the interns will conduct research on the extent to which empirical evidence does, or does not, justify the categorical bars currently in place in New Jersey, all with the goal of bringing a comprehensive legislative reform package before the New Jersey Legislature. In addition, the Institute is in the process of launching Reentry Roundtables 2.0, a re-imagining of the New Jersey Reentry Roundtables it convened in the early 2000’s.  As part of this effort, the Institute plans to draft a report on the current state of reentry in New Jersey, to be followed by a state-wide convening of reentry experts to determine where we go from here.  As part of this work, the interns will be asked to provide research support for the report, and assist Institute staff in engaging community members and experts for the convening, as well as helping to set the convening agenda. Consent Decree As a result of a 2014 Department of Justice Investigation, which determined that the Newark Police Department had engaged in a number of unconstitutional practices, the city of Newark entered into a consent decree with the Department of Justice.  As part of this settlement agreement, a federal monitor was appointed to oversee the implementation of various reforms in the department—as part of this process, the monitor was tasked with selecting a federal monitoring team of experts.  The Institute is proud to serve as part of this federal monitoring team, providing assistance on the issues of community engagement, bias-free policing, use of force, and body-worn cameras. To assist the Institute with its work on the federal monitoring team, the interns will research and prepare memorandums on issues ranging from use of force to bias-free policing and body-worn cameras.  In addition, the interns will have the opportunity attend key meetings and engage with the process in other meaningful ways.

    Potential projects Include:

    Juvenile Justice Reform opportunities and responsibilities:

    •  Research and draft portions of juvenile justice reports on issues ranging from school-to-prison pipeline to racial disparities; Identify national best practices in running juvenile facilities (with a focus on limiting the use of punitive isolation and maximizing the effectiveness of facility educational programs);
    • Identify schools or school districts that have taken steps to eliminate the school-to-prison pipeline and conducting research on whether the racially disproportionate impact of zero tolerance policies in New Jersey’s schools violates federal law;
    • Identify national best practices in juvenile diversion programs, which either defer prosecution of a juvenile for a period of time while they comply with the court’s supervision (typically, attending school and not committing another crime or status violation) or provide a punishment other than detention (e.g. supervision and therapy);
    •  Draft petitions for rule-making;
    •  Comment on draft rules;
    • Lay the groundwork for legislative reform, including bill-drafting; impact litigation; and designing model programs;

    Re-entry opportunities and responsibilities:

    • Assist with research and revisions for report on reentry in New Jersey;
    • Communicate with key legislators and officials from other states on best practices and empirical bases for employment and licensure bars.
    • Research, writing and strategizing related to employment and licensure bars.
    • Research what proportion of the local community has a conviction, has served time in prison, or has ever been arrested, as well as their demographic characteristics.
    • Study and identify the barriers to employment for people with convictions locally, and statewide, including employment and licensure bans, as well as other federal and state collateral consequences (such as ineligibility for federal public housing assistance).
    • Assist with community outreach and meetings in preparation for state-wide reentry convening. Consent Decree opportunities and responsibilities:
    • Research various policing issues
    • Prepare research memorandums
    • Engage in key stakeholder meetings
    • Attend community meetings and events on policing


    The Interns should have the following:

    • A passion for justice and the development of fairer criminal and juvenile justice systems.
    • A desire to work on both the client-centered and policy levels.
    • A creative, entrepreneurial approach to work.
    • The ability to work in a dynamic environment that entails improvisational responses to emergent opportunities.
    • Strong writing skills.
    • Strong interpersonal skills and the ability to work well with a wide range of people.
    • The desire to work with diverse people and communities.