Senators Hatch & Wyden Reach Agreement to Extend State Children’s Health Insurance Program for 5 Years

WASHINGTON -Senate Finance Committee Chairman Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) and Ranking Member Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) today announced an agreement to ensure stability for vulnerable children by extending the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) for five years. The lawmakers’ proposal would also over time, transition CHIP to its traditional federal-state partnership and provide additional protections for low-income children and flexibility for states. “CHIP is an effective, bipartisan program that helps to provide health coverage for vulnerable children and families,” said Hatch. “Congress needs to act quickly to extend the funding for CHIP. This agreement with Ranking Member Wyden is a good first start. Not only does this proposal provide uninterrupted funding for CHIP, but it also provides certainty and increased flexibility for states to administer the program. We will continue to work to advance this agreement in a way that does not add to the deficit, and I am hopeful we can move forward swiftly to ensure no lapse in care for our nation’s most vulnerable children.” “Today’s strong, bipartisan agreement on the Children’s Health Insurance Program is a great deal for America’s kids,” Wyden said. “I thank Chairman Hatch for his continued leadership, and I look forward to working with him and members of the Finance Committee to pass a five-year CHIP funding extension into law as soon as possible.” Full legislative language will be released in the coming days. The current reauthorization for funding will expire on Sept. 30, 2017. The Senate Finance Committee, the committee with the largest jurisdiction in either House of Congress, oversees more than 50 percent of the federal budget and has jurisdiction over large portions of the American healthcare system, including Medicare, Medicaid and CHIP.

Take Action To Prevent Gutting of the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) and Medicaid!

Congress has already begun the process of repealing of the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) and it now is on the fast track to include major cuts to the Medicaid programs as part of the replacement plan. The result would be two major blows to individuals with disabilities.

People’s health, services and lives are at stake! We need advocates to reach out to their Senators and Representatives to let them know why the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and Medicaid are essential to people with disabilities and their families.

Take Action:

Call your Senators and Representatives today at 202-224-3121. Now is the time for ACTION, remember every call matters! Don’t let them take away health care and services for millions of people and replace it with a plan that CUTS Medicaid.

Background:

Message 1: Do NOT per capita cap Medicaid!

Medicaid is a jointly funded program with matching state and federal funds. Under a Medicaid per capita cap, the federal government would set a limit on how much to reimburse states based on enrollment. Unlike current law, funding would not be based on the actual cost of providing services. Much like the proposed block grants, the intent of the per capita caps is to restructure the program and save the federal government money. Inevitably there will be cuts in funding and other negative impacts to Medicaid recipients could include:

  • Losing home and community-based services and supports. Waiting lists would quickly grow.
  • Losing other critical services such as personal care, mental health, prescription drugs, and rehabilitative services. If funds become more scarce, states may decide to stop providing these services altogether.
  • Being forced into unnecessary institutionalization. States could return to the days of “warehousing” people with disabilities in institutions.
  • Shifting the costs to individuals or family members to make up for the federal cuts. The costs of providing health care and long term services and supports will not go away, but will be shifted to individuals, parents, states,and providers.

Message 2: Do not repeal the Affordable Care Act’s protections for people with disabilities! 

The ACA is the most significant law for people with disabilities since the Americans with Disabilities Act:

  • Because of the ACA, health insurers can’t deny health insurance if you have a disability or chronic condition.
  • Because of the ACA, there aren’t arbitrary financial limits to how much health care you can get in a year or in your lifetime.
  • Because of the ACA, more people with disabilities receive supports and live in the community, not institutions.

Bill limiting solitary confinement in N.J. heads to Christie – Impacts Youth Waived to the Adult Prison System

A bill strictly limiting the use of solitary confinement in New Jersey’s prisons is headed to Gov. Chris Christie’s desk after bein passed by the state Assembly. The bill requires prisons and jails to use solitary confinement only as a last resort, restricting its use to 15 consecutive days or 20 days in a two-month period. It also bans the practice for inmates who are mentally ill, pregnant or have other special needs, and requires daily medical evaluations for prisoners in solitary. Read more HERE.

Demanding Dignity: Effects of prison solitary confinement – Senators Lesniak and Cunningham, and NJ Youth Caucus

Read the article HERE

WNYC News – Kids in Prison: Getting Tried as An Adult Depends on Skin Color: Featuring NJ Youth Caucus

Read the article HERE

Ask your State Senator to Support S.677 to Challenge Racial Disparity in the New Jersey Criminal Justice System

S.677 – Requires racial and ethnic impact statement for certain bills and regulations affecting sentencing, will be considered in the Senate Law and Public Safety Committee on June 20, 2016! We need your help to raise awareness on this important bill as it makes it way to the Assembly and eventually to the Governor’s desk!

The Problem:

Persistent racial disparities in the justice system have been shown to harm both individuals in the system as well as their families and communities. This effect is most pronounced in the dramatically high rate of incarceration of African American males in particular. New Jersey’s prison population has more than doubled in recent decades, growing from 6,087 in 1980 to 21,590 in 2014. This growth has been accompanied by an increasingly disproportionate racial disparity, with significantly high rates of incarceration for African Americans, who now constitute over 60% of committed New Jersey inmates, compared to the African American proportion of 12.9% in the general population of New Jersey.

The Solution: S.677 would challenge racial disparity in targeted ways.

  • S.677 will govern a process for racial impact statements, a tool for lawmakers to evaluate the potential disparities of proposed legislation on persons of color prior to adoption and implementation. Analogous to environmental impact statements, they assist legislators in detecting unforeseen policy ramifications before the change is adopted, rather than once they have been implemented.
  • S.677 would require the racial and ethnic impact statement to include a statistical analysis of how the change in policy would affect racial and ethnic minorities.
  • S.677 would amend public distribution for notices to appear in the Register for adoption, amendment, or repeal of any rule to include a racial impact statement.

Overall, S.677 is a step in the right direction to challenge racial disparity in New Jersey. In recent years other states – Connecticut, Iowa, and Oregon — have adopted similar legislation.

Five Ways You Can Help S.677 Pass Right Now: 

  1. Ask your Senator to Support S.677 – Call your senator today and ask them to support S.677, legislation to require racial and ethnic impact statements for proposed legislation.
  2. You can sign on to support the legislation here.
  3. Help Us Share The Good News On Twitter – tweet this post: Challenge #RacialDisparity in the New Jersey #criminaljustice system. Support #S677 sponsored by Sen. Ron Rice today!
  4. Spread Awareness on Facebook – share the status below on Facebook “Challenge #RacialandEthnicDisparity in the New Jersey criminal justice system”. Ask your state senator to support #S.677! New Jersey has significantly high rates of incarceration for African Americans, who constitute over 60% of committed New Jersey inmates, compared to the African American proportion of 12.9% in the general population of New Jersey.
  5. Forward this to everyone in your network so we can continue to build the momentum!

Also please download the report issued by The Sentencing Project which shows New Jersey as the Nation’s leader in racial disparities in prisons.

Fighting for Salvation and Social Justice
Rev. Charles F. Boyer

Challenging Racial Disparities in the Criminal Justice System

A state coalition has developed to promote policy solutions for the racial disparity that underlies the state’s juvenile and criminal justice systems. The initiative has coalesced around authorizing racial impact statements as a policy goal. Racial impact statements are a tool for lawmakers to evaluate potential disparities of proposed legislation prior to adoption and implementation. Similar to fiscal impact statements, they assist legislators in detecting unforeseen policy ramifications.

Coalition partners include faith leaders with the AME Ministers Coalition and the New Jersey Parent Caucus. Members are working closely with bill champion, Sen. Ronald Rice, on strategies to build momentum and advance the measure through the legislative process. Current tactics involve garnering additional support from state faith leaders and public education efforts with state advocates interested in criminal justice reform.

The Sentencing Reform and Corrections Act (SRCA) offers some initial answers to these problems

  1. Reduces mandatory minimums for non-violent drug crimes.
  2. Increases judicial discretion to sentence below mandatory minimum guidelines.
  3. Provides additional diversion options such as drug, mental health, and veteran courts to avoid prison sentences.
  4. Boosts opportunities for people in prison to earn time off for completing skills programming and drug treatment.
  5. Improves accuracy of federal criminal record keeping used by employers as a screening tool

This legislation makes good strides towards ending the crisis. Act now and Tell your Senator you support this Act!

ANALYSIS SHOWS CHILDREN & YOUTH TREATED UNFAIRLY IN NEW JERSEY’S ADULT PRISON SYSTEM

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

For more information, contact:

Kathy Wright

908-994-7471

kathyw@njparentcaucus.org

Youth Suffer Long Term Solitary Confinement, Gross Racial & Ethnic Disparities, Justice by Geography, and Lack of Due Process

 

Elizabeth, New Jersey – A local study by the New Jersey Parents’ Caucus (NJPC) of 472 children and youth, ages 14 to 17, who were waived, sentenced and incarcerated in New Jersey’s adult prison system between 2007 – 2015, showed:

  • Gross racial and ethnic disparities: approximately 90% are youth of color; 72% are African American males.
  • Justice by geography: Rates of incarceration in the adult prison system vary significantly across counties in New Jersey, suggesting that justice depends on where one lives, not on the facts of a given case.
  • Youth are regularly deprived of due process: Approximately 30% of the 472 youth waived to adult court during the study period spent more than 2 years incarcerated, between their arrest date and their sentencing date, violating their right to a speedy trial.
  • Youth are regularly put in solitary confinement – especially youth with mental health disorders: Although solitary confinement is known to be psychologically damaging, especially to children, 53% of these youth spent a total of approximately 15,359 days (42 years) in solitary confinement between 2010 and 2015; 5 percent spend over a year there, and about 4 percent spent 2 years or more in solitary.  Nearly 70 percent of those placed in solitary had a mental health disorder, with nearly 37% having two or more diagnoses.
  • Youth suffer abuse while in adult prison: once incarcerated in an adult prison, one in four youth surveyed reported physical abuse; 5% reported sexual abuse.

 

These disturbing statistics appear in NJPC’s new data brief, entitled The Incarceration of Children & Youth in New Jersey’s Adult Prison System: New Jersey Youth Justice Initiative, The brief is comprised of comprehensive state data which NJPC gathered from the New Jersey Department of Corrections (NJ DOC) on 472 children incarcerated in the adult prison system. The data largely covers the period 2007 – 2015, though some information gathered dates back to 2003.  In addition to the data retrieved from the NJ Department of Corrections, NJPC has compiled additional data from a subset of the same population (120 youth) by means of a survey provided to incarcerated youth and their parents, caregivers and family members.

 

“These data show how broken our system is,” said Kathy Wright, executive director of the NJPC, a parent of a justice-involved youth, and a fellow in the National Juvenile Justice Network’s Youth Justice Leadership Institute. “We should not be sending youth to the adult system, where their rights are violated, they are unsafe, and their mental health needs go unmet. New Jersey’s juvenile justice system was created because as a society, we realized our children, due to their age, can be rehabilitated, and they should be given the opportunity to do so.”

 

Results from the data brief highlight a myriad of injustices that continue to plague New Jersey’s justice system. Most blatant are the gross racial and ethnic disparities that exist in justice system. Youth of color are disproportionately represented among those waived to the adult prison system in New Jersey, making up approximately 90% of youth included in NJPC’s data set; 72% are African American males, exceeding all other ethnic groups and genders. Furthermore, rates of youth incarceration in the adult prison system vary significantly across counties in New Jersey, suggesting that justice depends on where one lives, not on the facts of a given case. For example, in Camden County, 14 to 17 year olds make up 5.8% of the population of children between the ages of 0-17, but make up 15.3% of our data set between 2007 and 2015. In comparison, in Hunterdon County, where youth 14 to 17 make up 6.3% of the population of children between the ages of 0-17, exactly 0% were incarcerated in the adult system between 2007 and 2015.

Once incarcerated, children and youth are frequently subject to long-term solitary confinement, even though solitary confinement is known to be psychologically damaging, especially to children. Worse, one in four youth surveyed reported physical abuse, and 5% reported sexual abuse. Finally, and most disturbingly, the needs of New Jersey youth are not being met in their communities. Almost three out of four (71%) of youth waived to the adult system were known to at least two child-serving agencies prior to their involvement in adult court, with the majority having been involved in the mental health system. Of those youth, more than two out of three children have two or more mental health diagnoses.

According to Wright, “Given the large number of New Jersey youth involved in multiple child-serving systems prior to their incarceration in the adult system, this data brief serves as a call to action for state officials, child-serving systems, community-based organizations, legislators, and other interested stakeholders throughout the state of New Jersey to revisit the way in which we view and provide services to all children and youth, regardless of their race, ethnicity or geographical location, and the way in which services are provided to them and their families. Somehow, we have lost our way. The institution of racism has reared its ugly head and we are funneling kids of color who need our help into the juvenile justice system where, unlike the schoolhouse, there is no eject button, and they cannot say no.”

NJPC’s The Incarceration of Children & Youth in New Jersey’s Adult Prison System: New Jersey Youth Justice Initiative recently posted on the National Center for Mental Health and Juvenile Justice (NCMHJJ) on their homepage, the National Black Disability Coalition, National Juvenile Justice Network, and the Campaign for Youth Justice. The data brief is also available for download on the New Jersey Parents Caucus website at at http://www.newjerseyparentscaucus.org.

About the New Jersey Parents’s Caucus: The NJ Youth Justice Initiative, a program of the New Jersey Parents Caucus, is tracking and corresponding with currently incarcerated youth and their parents and family members. The New Jersey Parents’ Caucus, Inc. is a coalition of parents, caregivers, family members and youth whose mission is to ensure that every family who has children with special emotional and behavioral needs is given an opportunity to play a strong and active role in the conceptualization, development and delivery of effective and timely services for their children.

It is the position of the New Jersey Parents’ Caucus, Inc. (NJPC) and its membership that the state’s current policies which promote the trying, sentencing and incarceration of children and youth between the ages of 14 and 17 in adult system are unjust and require further review. No youth should face an increased likelihood of adult waiver for a similar crime in a similar circumstance because of race, ethnicity, geography or socio-economic status. As well, for those children who are waived to the adult system, safety, rehabilitative services, treatment, and appropriate educational services and support, must be provided, particularly for those children with a history of mental health needs and/or special education involvement.