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Racial Justice initiative, now in its third year, continues to expand across New Jersey’s Department of Law and Public Safety

AG Announces first-of-its-kind Racial Justice Speaker Series with Prominent National Scholars and Leaders

NEW JERSEY – The Racial Justice Initiative, launched in 2021 and reaching across all agencies, divisions, and offices within the Department of Law and Public Safety (LPS), continues to expand its scope, including with a new speaker series announced Monday by Attorney General Matthew J. Platkin.

The Attorney General’s Racial Justice Speaker Series, which is open to all LPS employees and various community stakeholders, will feature prominent national leaders who are at the forefront of the racial justice movement in the United States and around the world. The first speaker will be presented on November 1, 2023.

In July 2021, the Office of the Attorney General directed each of the Department’s agencies, divisions, and offices to identify specific projects to advance racial justice throughout New Jersey that they could complete using existing state and regulatory authorities. Launching the initiative spurred a number of significant policy changes and the creation of new offices to advance its efforts. Attorney General Platkin has built on these efforts with the creation of new offices, divisions, and programs designed to serve historically underserved communities across the state.

“I believe we are morally obligated to pursue and promote racial justice. Ensuring greater equity and justice for underserved communities across our diverse state remains one of my top priorities,” Platkin said. “The groundbreaking programs established in response to the Racial Justice Initiative have allowed each of our offices, divisions and agencies to implement efforts to combat racial injustices that impact the lives of all New Jerseyans. I am grateful to the Department’s leaders for working swiftly to implement new systems and services that are fairer, more just, and more equitable.”

The inaugural event of the 2023 speaker series will feature Minnijean Brown Trickey, one of the nine students who integrated Little Rock Central High School in 1957 in Little Rock, Arkansas. On November 1st, Ms. Brown Trickey will participate in a fireside chat with the Attorney General to share her story as a member of the “Little Rock Nine,” her career as an educator and lifelong advocate for racial, gender, social and environmental justice.

A second event will be held on December 1st with Professor D. Wendy Greene, who is Director of the Center for Law, Policy, and Social Action at Drexel University Kline School of Law. Her lecture, titled “Realizing Racial Justice: What’s Black Hair Got to Do with It?”, will explore how the contemporary social justice movement to combat hair discrimination is a critical component of a global movement to realize racial justice for African descendants and other people of color.

Both programs are open to all employees in the Department of Law and Public Safety. Attorneys who attend will receive New Jersey and Pennsylvania continuing legal education ethics credits.

In mid-2021, the Department’s agencies, divisions and offices established more than a dozen initiatives designed to advance racial justice and equity for underserved communities. The initiatives – which rely on the Department’s enforcement and regulatory authorities, community engagement, grantmaking, and other tools – include the following areas:

  • Combatting bias, discrimination, and hate.
  • Ensuring fairer treatment for justice-involved individuals.
  • Promoting equity and addressing past wrongs.
  • Strengthening relationships with the community.

A complete list of racial justice initiatives established by the Department is currently being developed and will be released publicly very soon.

Highlights of completed initiatives include:

  • The Division on CivilRights (DCR), which enforces the Law Against Discrimination (LAD) and the Fair Chance in Housing Act (FCHA), released a groundbreaking report on the impact of white supremacy titled “Exposing White Supremacy in New Jersey,” analyzing the rise in white supremacist recruitment and violence and the painful impact that white supremacy has on targeted communities.
  • DCR released guidance for schools regarding discrimination in school discipline and guidance on combatting bias pursuant to the recommendations of the Youth Bias Task Force Report to address the racial disparities that exist in school discipline and the rise in bias and hate.
  • In 2023 alone, DCR has offered 262 trainings/events to nearly 25,000 people relating to the LAD, the FCHA, implicit bias, microaggressions, and other racial justice topics.
  • The Division of Alcoholic Beverage Control provided greater access to certain licenses for people with a history of criminal justice involvement by amending its regulations to reduce disqualifications based on “moral turpitude” and by making it easier to remove disqualifications with payment plans for applications seeking removal.
  • The Juvenile Justice Commission (JJC) revised its mission statement to include a focus on racial justice and ensuring equitable outcomes for youth.
  • The JJC renamed the Wilson School at the New Jersey Training School after the Little Rock Nine who integrated Little Rock’s Central High School in 1957. It also developed and implemented new curriculum for law enforcement aimed at improving interactions and equitable treatment of youth, many of whom are youth of color.
  • The JJC also conducted racial impact assessments of its classification policies to ensure more equitable placement of youth in its facilities. Due to its assessment and subsequent policy changes, the racial disparities in placement (distance from home) have been eliminated and youth have greater access to their families and opportunities for community engagement in the communities they come from.
  • Created in 2021, the Office of Justice Data has made data assessible to the public through interactive dashboards that offer a clear picture of how racial inequities impact communities.
  • The Attorney General’s Advocacy Institute developed and accredited two new programs on racial justice and the importance of valuing differences. The programs include: (1) “Introduction to Racial Justice Issues” and (2) a program for managers designed to support difference in the workplace.
  • The Division of Violence Intervention and Victim Assistance (VIVA) was created in September 2022 to advance LPS’s strategy for public safety, including a public health approach to reducing and responding to community and interpersonal violence. VIVA provides support for the New Jersey Hospital-Based Violence Intervention Program and the Community-Based Violence Intervention Program in underserved communities.
  • The Division of Consumer Affairs published a guide for justice-involved individuals to reduce barriers to regulated professions and to assist applicants with obtaining rehabilitative evidence to overcome presumptive ineligibility for certain professions.

Jay Edwards

Born and raised in Northwest NJ, Jay has a degree in Communications and has had a life-long interest in local radio and various styles of music. Jay has held numerous jobs over the years such as stunt car driver, bartender, voice-over artist, traffic reporter (award winning), NY Yankee maintenance crewmember and peanut farm worker. His hobbies include mountain climbing, snowmobiling, cooking, performing stand-up comedy and he is an avid squirrel watcher. Jay has been a guest on America’s Morning Headquarters,program on The Weather Channel, and was interviewed by Sam Champion.

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