First and foremost, John Wisniewski understands that Black Lives Matter. He looks forward to implementing significant remedies at the state level that would curb mandatory minimum sentencing and curtail the criminalization of nonviolent drug offenders.
African Americans, Latinos, and Native Americans are all overrepresented in New Jersey’s correctional system. John Wisniewski is committed to beginning the process to reform the disproportionate targeting of people of color.
Despite a steady decline of NJ’s overall prison population after reaching its peak in 1999, according to the 2010 Census, New Jersey still detained nearly 2,000 out of every 100,000 African-Americans living in the state in some form of a correctional facility, a significantly higher rate than any other racial demographic.
A first-step: To end the so-called war on drugs, we need to begin thinking about new approaches that are less punitive and move the state past incarceration and addiction. As governor, John Wisniewski will move for the decriminalization of marijuana, eliminate jail time for possession, and create a legal framework for legalization. It’s time for New Jersey to join other states in decriminalization and legalization of marijuana. John will also pardon low level nonviolent drug charges. This will increase employment and educational opportunities for thousands, truly bringing the formerly disenfranchised back into the power of democratic agency.
New Jersey must also demilitarize its police forces. Limiting local law enforcement’s ability to purchase excess military combat style hardware from the Department of Defense will help instill a greater sense of trust in the community between residents and the police. We cannot allow residents in our communities to feel intimidated by the same forces that are there to protect them. We must reduce the ability to purchase these items – developed communities don’t need tanks.
We should be empowering communities to hold accountable the law enforcement officials that serve them. That’s why John supports the establishment of local civilian complaint review boards like the ones seen in Newark that provide transparency for alleged instances of law enforcement misconduct. John believes that fostering civilian oversight methods such as this is crucial to both establishing and improving two-way trust between the public and police officers.
Lastly, banning private, for-profit federal prisons within New Jersey. We must eliminate the profit motive for keeping people locked-up and in the corrections system. Additionally, John Wisniewski would instruct his Attorney General to use best available data to advise introduction of a statewide mandate on body cameras.
Speech to the People’s Organization for Progress, Newark, NJ, November 10, 2016 [transcript]:
“… The rights that we may not be able to secure on a federal level, we’re going to have to rely on our state to protect those rights to make sure everybody has an equal and a fair opportunity to cast their ballots. To make sure that men and women, regardless of where they come from, regardless of their neighborhood, regardless of their color, regardless of what they believe, have equal access to justice… It is something that we can make sure happens on the state level…
“… So how will I make a difference?… There are three words that you will hear from John Wisniewski on the day he takes the oath for the office of governor: Black Lives Matter…
“… We have seen too many times where people with authority have abused that authority. And it’s interesting that that abuse is not an abuse that somebody who looks like me often sees. It’s an abuse that is visited on populations of color with impunity, and we need a governor who’s going to have an Attorney General who is going to make that an important priority because we know that we can’t rely on the federal government to do that… And a new administration in this state has to make sure that we’re not only appointing an independent Attorney General who is going to stand up to the Trump administration but have a policy as an administration to eradicate those violences because we see them every day.
“The legal violences… simple things, where you can’t get a public defender of any quality because the administration refuses to fund the Office of the Public Defender. And so what happens is people who have resources, they get justice, and people who have no resources, they get no justice. That’s not what America should be about. And certainly, that’s not what New Jersey should be about.” – John Wisniewski