New Jersey has a task force charged with finding ways to improve the state's youth justice system and it's calling on the public for help.

Three "listening sessions" are planned in January, starting on Thursday in Newark, where the Task Force for the Continued Transformation of Youth Justice in New Jersey hopes to hear from those directly impacted by the system, to help address issues related to parole, residential programs and other topics.

"Governor (Phil) Murphy established this Task Force as a way to bring everyone to the table to create a blueprint for reforming our youth justice system. The listening sessions are a way for members of the community to make their voices heard in that process," said Attorney General Gurbir Grewal. "The insight and feedback they provide will help guide the Task Force in carrying out its mandate to explore ways of making the system more effective, fair, and just for all."

Each session will open with brief remarks from the Task Force, and then be opened for public comment. Speakers are limited to three minutes, and individuals are free to speak anonymously.

Schedule of listening sessions:

  • Thursday, Jan. 9, from 6 to 8 p.m. Barringer High School, Newark
  • Thursday, Jan. 16, from 6 to 8 p.m. James Kerney Campus at Mercer County Community College, Trenton
  • Thursday, Jan. 23, from 6 to 8 p.m. KROC Corps Community Center, Camden

Visit this page to register for an event. Registration is encouraged but not mandatory.

"We welcome comments about any aspect of the system, but we are particularly interested in feedback on several specific topics of interest," said Jennifer LeBaron, chairwoman of the Task Force and Acting Executive Director of the state's Juvenile Justice Commission.

Topics of interest:

  • Parole
  • Residential programs
  • Stationhouse adjustments
  • JCC secure care facilities
  • County Youth Services Commissions
  • Investment in community based programs

"While we know that the community likely has concerns about youth justice, we are hoping that we also receive innovative ideas for reform," LeBaron said.

LeBaron said the state has made great progress in reforming its youth detention system — eliminating chronic and dangerous overcrowding, for example — but "there's still a lot of work to be done."

The Task Force was created in October 2018 with an executive ordered signed by the Governor. Its recommendations will be provided to the Governor's Office, the Department of Law and Public Safety, the Legislature, and Executive Branch departments and agencies.

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