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New Jersey Institute for Social Justice

Organization Description

The New Jersey Institute for Social Justice (“NJISJ” or “the Institute”) is a Newark-based urban research and advocacy organization dedicated to the advancement of New Jersey's urban areas and residents. Established in 1999 by the Alan V. and Amy Lowenstein Foundation, the Institute provides a dynamic and independent voice for change necessary to create just, vibrant and inclusive urban communities throughout New Jersey. We are pleased to have been referred to as a “social justice think and do tank.”

It is our strong belief that urban areas of New Jersey hold remarkable potential to act as regionally competitive economic engines while providing resilient, vital, and attractive communities to their residents. It is our work to identify, analyze and address the underlying causes of social and economic disparities and to challenge the barriers that constrain cities and their residents from achieving their full potential.

Fields of interest:  Criminal justice, juvenile justice, affordable housing, equal employment opportunity, healthcare.
Type of work:  Policy research and advocacy, model service program development, legislative efforts, strategic litigation, and media advocacy.

Primary programs:
The Institute's primary programs focus on expanding access to economic opportunity for low-income and minority residents of Newark and other urban areas in the state; promoting local, regional and state government that is effective, equitable, and accountable to the concerns of urban residents and their communities; and ensuring the civil rights and other basic entitlements of minorities and low-income individuals in the state.  The Institute advances this non-partisan agenda through policy-related research and analysis, development and implementation of model programs, advocacy efforts (including litigation when appropriate) and sustained public education. 

The Guggenheim interns will provide the academic background, ability to work independently, and commitment to public service that we have come to expect from the Guggenheim program.  The Institute currently has a recent Princeton graduate in a post-graduate presioner reentry fellowship.

Guggenheim Internship Description

The interns will also work directly with the Institute’s job development programs, which focus on urban communities facing particular hardships in reentering the labor market, especially those with criminal histories. The Newark Construction Careers pre-apprenticeship program trains Newark residents, predominantly ex-offenders, in the construction trades; the EPA Brownfields Program trains unemployed and underemployed residents from Newark in environmental technician jobs. Since the Institute’s commitment to its students does not end with the conclusion of the program, the intern will assist with case management under the guidance of the Workforce Development team. The intern will meet with past graduates to address workforce reentry and barriers to advancement, which can include obtaining a Transportation Worker Identification Card or driver’s license reinstatement.

The interns will be involved in determining best practices for future workforce training programs. The interns will meet with former participants to conduct a satisfaction survey and discuss any possibilities for improvement, with the chance to later use the results of the survey to propose program reforms. In addition to the current training programs, the intern will assist the workforce development team in discovering other resource opportunities and developing new program proposals. Duties will include meeting with local elected officials and community leaders to discuss other workforce barriers faced by urban communities in New Jersey, and turning ideas and suggestions into a grant proposal. 

The intern will also have the opportunity to spend time with Newark Community Solutions, a community justice initiative that applies a problem-solving approach to low-level cases in Newark’s municipal courthouse. Newark Community Solutions seeks increased sentencing options for non-violent offenses and to promote the use of community service and social service mandates in order to reduce the court’s reliance on ineffective fines and expensive short-term jail sentences, while building the public’s confidence in justice. The intern will also have the chance to shadow and work with a ReLeSe attorney. ReLeSe – Reentry Legal Services – was founded by the Institute to help individuals with criminal records address civil legal matters that are barriers to successful community reintegration. ReLeSe volunteer attorneys handle suspended driver’s licenses, municipal court issues, child support issues (on a case-by-case basis), and expungements.

Juvenile Justice Reform opportunities and responsibilities:
•    research and writing related to the transfer of juveniles into adult court and adult facilities
•    meeting with law enforcement, elected officials, community leaders and other policy makers
•    drafting legislation
•    tracking the use of waiver in other states

Reentry opportunities and responsibilities: 
•    meet with elected officials, local leaders and the business community to catalyze support behind the Ban the Box initiative
•    research, writing and strategizing related to offender reentry
•    experience Community Court 
•    shadow ReLeSe attorneys 
•    case management for past workforce training program graduates
•    conduct a satisfaction survey and work to determine best practices for future workforce training programs

Intern Qualifications

Interns should have the following:
•    A passion for justice and the development of fairer criminal and juvenile justice systems.
•    A desire to work on both the client-centered and policy levels
•    A creative, entrepreneurial approach to work
•    The ability to see and analyze both “forests and trees”
•    The ability to work in a dynamic environment that entails improvisational responses to emergent opportunities
•    Strong writing skills
•    Strong interpersonal skills and the ability to work well with a wide range of people
•    An easygoing personality
•    The desire to work with diverse people and communities