WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senator Cory Booker (D-NJ), a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, released the following statement after the New Jersey legislature passed several measures to restore justice to the criminal justice system:
“As the legislative year comes to a close, New Jersey has been hard at work reforming our criminal justice system so that it will treat incarcerated women with dignity, restore voting rights for formerly incarcerated individuals, and put a stop to hair discrimination. All New Jerseyans deserve to be treated with decency and respect, and each of these measures will end unequitable and disenfranchising realities that too many have been facing.
“Our criminal justice system is alarmingly unequipped to handle the needs of incarcerated women, leaving them to face conditions that can be devastating and traumatic. The time these women spend incarcerated should be focused on rehabilitating, keeping in touch with their families, and not worrying about having their most basic needs met.
“For those who have paid their debt to society, re-entered, and are now tax-paying members of our communities, the right to vote is absolutely essential. By restoring the voting rights of almost 82,000 New Jerseyans on probation or parole, this measure shows that, as a state, we believe in second chances and we’re committed to strengthening our democracy.
“Today’s passage of the CROWN Act marks a historic step in banning a culture of discrimination against black hair. Hair discrimination is a civil rights violation and we must stop reinforcing racism and biases against black hair.”
Booker has introduced similar measures at the federal level. Today, these measures passed in the New Jersey State Senate following passage in the New Jersey State Assembly earlier this year.
In April, Booker, along with Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) and Representatives Pramila Jayapal (D-WA) and Karen Bass (D-CA) reintroduced the Dignity for Incarcerated Women Act at the federal level, after originally introducing it in 2017. In 2018, Booker was instrumental in getting three of the bill's provisions into the First Step Act, a landmark criminal justice package that was signed into law in December 2018. The provisions included a ban on the shackling of pregnant women, a mandate that incarcerated individuals be placed within 500 miles of the nearest family member, and a directive to provide hygiene products in prisons. Sen. Linda Greenstein (D-LD14) and Assemblywoman Yvonne Lopez (D-LD19) led the Dignity Act in New Jersey.
Restoring Voting Rights for Formerly Incarcerated:
Earlier this year, Booker introduced a measure to reinstate voting rights for formerly incarcerated individuals in federal elections as part of his Next Step Act, with Congresswoman Bonnie Watson Coleman (D-NJ). He is also a co-sponsor of the Democracy Restoration Act, which would similarly restore voting rights to formerly incarcerated individuals. Sens. Ronald Rice (D-LD28) and Sandra B. Cunningham (D-LD31), and Assemblywomen Shavonda Sumter (D-LD35), Cleopatra Tucker (D-LD28), and Britnee Timberlake (D-LD34) led this measure in New Jersey.
Earlier this month, Booker introduced the CROWN Act in the U.S. Senate to enact a federal ban on discrimination against hairstyles commonly associated with a particular race or national origin. Sen. Sandra B. Cunningham (D-LD31) and Assemblywoman Angela McKnight (D-LD31) led the CROWN Act in New Jersey.