NJ-CAIC is a coalition of survivors and advocates committed to educating, legislating, and organizing to call for an end to all forms of prolonged or unnecessary prisoner isolation. We urge all stakeholders--prisoners, families, correctional personnel, health professionals, community and faith leaders, and legislators--to join this movement for humane and restorative correctional practices.
While several of our members have been advocating for prisoner rights over the span of decades, the coalition that became the New Jersey Campaign for Isolated Confinement (NJ-CAIC) formed in 2012, utilizing testimonies and data gathered by human rights organizations and legal advocates to urge the Juvenile Justice Commission (JJC) to adopt more humane regulations for placing youth offenders in isolation. Our efforts to draw attention to this issue, educate the public, and organize through petitions and press conferences ultimately paved the way and lent momentum to the comprehensive juvenile justice reforms signed into law in 2015.
Working closely with Senator Ray Lesniak and Assemblywoman Nancy Pinkin, our coalition helped draft legislation that came to be known as The Isolated Confinement Restriction Act (S.51/A.547). Its major features included:
- Requiring correctional facilities to use isolation only as a last resort.
- Limiting the permitted period of isolation to 15 days, or 20 days per 60 day period.
- Prohibiting isolation for vulnerable populations, such as those with mental illnesses, LGBT prisoners, pregnant women, youth, elderly, and people with various disabilities.
- Mandating primary clearance and daily evaluations by medical professionals for those eligible for short-term isolation.
- Requiring the Department of Corrections to develop stricter protocols for housing placement and data reporting.
The legislative campaign supporting this bill gained tremendous momentum in 2015 and 2016, and as the support from legislators grew, so too did the membership of NJ-CAIC. Thanks to the tireless work of advocates, faith communities, and event organizers, S.51/A.547 advanced through every legislative committee and ultimately passed through both houses of the New Jersey legislature in October of 2016.
Governor Chris Christie vetoed S.51/A.547 two months later, denying the existence of this practice in New Jersey and resorting to bullish and baseless comments on the veracity of the bill. The coalition was undaunted by this politically-motivated veto, responding quickly with evidence-based rebuttals and testimonies. On January 11, 2017, NJ-CAIC hosted a rally outside New Jersey State Prison to publicly condemn the governor's veto and to celebrate the monumental success of this growing movement.
NJ-CAIC is growing in strength and numbers, and it is in the vanguard of a larger national movement to end torture in U.S. prisons. Please join us as we build on the successes of the past 5 years and strategize for victory in the fight for human dignity and justice reform in the years ahead.