JAMESBURG — Exactly 150 years after the New Jersey Training School for Boys opened its doors, a rally outside the prison will call for its closure, suggesting youth incarceration in New Jersey has not succeeded at rehabilitating the young minds that go through the system.

Youth facility
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The June 28 rally, led by the New Jersey Institute for Social Justice, will push for the shutdown of both the Jamesburg facility and the Female Secure Care and Intake Facility in Bordentown. Caravans of supporters — all part of the Youth Justice New Jersey coalition — are expected to attend.

The event does not target the Juvenile Medium Security Facility in Bordentown.

According to the institute, of the approximately 500 young people released from commitment in New Jersey state youth facilities in 2012, 80 percent found themselves in handcuffs at another point in time. Sixty-eight percent were met with another conviction. About a third were recommitted within three years of release.

"The current system has not done what it was created to do, and that is to rehabilitate our young people," Retha Onitiri, the institute's juvenile justice campaign director, told New Jersey 101.5. "We have a revolving door of recidivism."

Onitiri said studies have shown youth incarceration, as it exists today in the Garden State, increases one's odds of living in poverty or being in prison as an adult.

The coalition is attempting to transform New Jersey's youth incarceration system into a "community-based system of care." Youth in need of secure placement would be placed in small, treatment-focused, therapeutic environments with wrap-around services.

"What we're saying is that there should be more of an emphasis on services, less emphasis on punitive measures such as being incarcerated in cells, and that our young people should be closer to home so that their families could participate in their rehabilitative programs," Onitiri said.

According to a news release from the institute, 222 youth are currently incarcerated in the state's three youth prisons. The group is also attacking "extreme racial disparities" in the state's juvenile justice system, noting just 13 inmates are white, despite research showing black and white youth commit similar offenses at similar rates.

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Contact reporter Dino Flammia at dino.flammia@townsquaremedia.com.

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