I stand in full support of the closing of the New Jersey Training School for Boys, known as Jamesburg.
This 150th anniversary of the training school has weighed heavily on my heart because for 150 years we have kept open a system that is devastating Black children and their families.
This anniversary makes me think about our values as a community and what it says about us, that we have permitted this moral stain to exist for so long.
What does it say about our values when we continue to invest in a system that has failed for 150 years?
What does it say about our values when we keep open an institution that incarcerates black children at a rate more than 24 times that of white children, even though Black and white children have comparable rates of offending?
What does it say about our values when we continue to send children into a system that increases the likelihood they will live in poverty or prison as adults?
What does it say about our values when we spend $200,000 annually to incarcerate one youth in New Jersey but we do not provide our young people with free tuition to a state university?
One hundred and fifty years of failures is enough.
We owe it the people of our state, the children of our state, to create a better system. And we must all come together to plan a truly just system that celebrates the possibility and dignity of every child -- and all stakeholders, youth, their families, unions, and advocates, must be at the table, together.
This system must become a system of redemption, rehabilitation, and re-education. One of fairness regardless of ethnicity or class.
Jamesburg has failed us! For 150 years, Jamesburg has been given its chance! The time is now to permanently close Jamesburg so that we can create a better way forward.
The Rev. Ronald Slaughter is the pastor of Saint James AME Church in Newark. This guest column was adapted from a speech he is giving today during a rally outside the Monroe Township facility.