A prominent religious leader who heads one of the largest black churches in Newark has been nominated to the state Parole Board by Gov. Phil Murphy.

The Rev. Dr. Ronald Slaughter, the pastor of St. James AME, was tapped to fill a six-year term on the board.

“I’m both honored and grateful for Governor Murphy’s nomination for me to serve on the State’s Parole Board as it is an opportunity for me to serve the great State of New Jersey,” Slaughter said. “I do not take this honor lightly. I’m looking forward to the opportunity. In all that I do, I’ll strive to ensure that New Jersey becomes a fairer New Jersey for everyone.”

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The parole board consists of a chair, 14 associate members and three alternates. Inmates come before two Parole Board members, who decide whether to grant parole. The Senate must approve the nomination.

Sen. Ronald Rice, a Democrat who represents Newark, said he looks forward to voting on Slaughter's nomination.

"Pastor Slaughter’s knowledge and interest in criminal justice reform and social justice reform will be an asset to the Parole Board and the residents and taxpayers in New Jersey," Rice said. "He will bring fairness and integrity to the Parole Board based on his understanding and knowledge of a failed criminal justice system in this country and state.”

Slaughter, 43, in 2011 became the youngest Pastor to lead St. James, the largest AME church in New Jersey and one of the largest churches in Newark with more than 1,700 members who worship at its home on Dr. Martin Luther King Blvd. as well as a satellite location at the South Orange Performing Arts Center (SOPAC).

A native of Orlando, Fla., Slaughter accepted his first appointment as a pastor at Hickman Tabernacle AME Church in 1999, while attending Paine College in Augusta, Georgia, on an athletic scholarship. Earlier this year, Slaughter received his doctorate from Wesley Theological Seminary.

Since his appointment as pastor of St. James, Slaughter has increased the number of members of the church by 1,300 worshipers, erased $800,000 in debt, made numerous renovations and is raising money for a new church across the street.

Slaughter has emerged as one of the state’s leading voices on issues of social justice, like fair wages, access to healthcare and the quality of education at Essex County College. He has also raised allegations of racism at Kean University.

Slaughter was also on the front lines of the effort to save Saint Michael’s Medical Center, which was sold to Prime Healthcare in 2016. Slaughter is now the chair of the hospital’s local governing board.

Slaughter is not the first pastor from the AME Church in New Jersey to be appointed to the state Parole Board. The Rev. Dr. Kenneth L. Saunders Sr., retired Pastor of North Stelton AME Church in Piscataway, was nominated by Gov. James McGreevey in 2002 to serve on the Parole Board.

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