USING MARIJUANA TAXES FOR UNIVERSAL INCOME IN NEW JERSEY TO REDUCE RECIDIVISM
States With Legal Recreational Marijuana Made $2.7 Billion in Tax Revenue Last Year .
That's a lot of money that could go towards whatever purpose the state wishes. In states like New Jersey, thats as many as $150 million dollars going towards education, healthcare and other social services.
In this article we'll discuss the benefits of using marijuana taxes to create universal income programs for those most in need. Why? One reason is that it would bring a more sustainable funding structure to these programs without relying on outdated tax structures or budgetary fights from legislators who have different priorities from their citizens.
Another reason is that state marijuana taxes seem to have a behavioral effect like public works employment initiatives of the 50s. And finally, it would help counter the most fundamental problem with the criminal justice system: recidivism.
Secondly and most importantly, universal income programs has proven to be a very effective crime deterrent measure that allows the government to allow people to pursue their dreams. Proponents of this are so critical that they've even gone as far as giving it a name: Basic Income (BI).
The Basic Income
In order to understand how this program would be effective for New Jersey, it's important to understand what the basic income is. So here it goes:
"The BI aims to eradicate the day-to-day uncertainty of not knowing where your next meal will come from" .
The Basic Income concept can work in two ways: either as a direct cash grant or as an indirect cash grant (sometimes called a 'negative income tax').
The idea is that because so many citizens are in need of various social services, including healthcare, education and hunger services, allowing them a stipend of sorts could solve an enormous amount of social and criminal justice related problems. This is not just a pipe dream and it's not just some wacky leftist idea that always ends up getting shot down by the GOP. It's actually been implemented in several countries and has a very good chance of succeeding in other places. One of those places happens to be New Jersey where such legislation could be proposed as soon as next session.
Last December, the Rochester City Council approved a two-year guaranteed basic income pilot program that provides $500 a month to 175 families that live at or below 200% of the federal poverty line. The program would use funds from the American Rescue Plan. Evan has previously said he would approach philanthropists to see whether they could help the city expand the program.
Universal Income In Action
In the Netherlands, a handful of cities have started experimenting with universal income programs. The Netherlands is also an interesting case study because it's where the American Rescue Plan (earlier mentioned) originated from. Here's just one example:
"The pilot program is being championed by a coalition of Rotterdam politicians, who are planning to expand the program next year to all residents living below the poverty line, regardless of their employment status. A recent study of the program found that "the basic income was a significant driver of labor market participation."
According to the study, "every unemployed citizen who participated could expect an increase in their employment earnings by at least 7% as a result of the Dutch system." This rate is much higher than what is seen in wealthy nations, where about half of the poor who want a job get one.
In the United States, a handful of communities and states like Oakland, Seattle, and the state of Washington, have created a basic income experiment in the last year. The state of Hawaii is also considering setting up its own basic income scheme next year.
The wealth in a nation can be redistributed to make sure everyone has enough to live on. Giving people money to live on is more effective than giving them food stamps, vouchers or other forms of charity, because it gives them security and dignity. A Universal Basic Income would eliminate the uncertainty that most working class people are forced to work their entire lives under.
New Jersey would be the first state to pass a Basic Income in the United States. The prospect seems likely because New Jersey has had tremendous success with it's Work First and TANF programs. These programs have truly changed the lives of tens of thousands of citizens who have come out of poverty, and are still working today thanks to these programs.
In fact, data shows that in the last decade, New Jersey is #1 in overall employment, #2 in income growth, and #7 in poverty reduction among all states. As an added bonus, it has the lowest cost of living in the nation.
The UBI could be one of the most effective solutions for New Jersey. Though this article focuses on universal income as a form of basic income, that doesn't mean all programs must be cash grants. In fact, they could be much more creative and sophisticated.
IF NEW JERSEY RANKS 31ST IN U.S. STATES BY EMPLOYMENT RATE, WHY AREN’T WE REMOVING BARRIERS FOR PEOPLE WITH FELONY CONVICTIONS TO CHANGE THAT?
While many people are now employed, the unemployment rate is still high.
Why? Lack of access to childcare, fear of Omicron, and poor health benefits may be some of the main catalysts behind the crisis. But, the answer may also be rooted in a lack of candidates with the required skill set that are available for hire.
And one possible solution to this dilemma is to open up opportunities for those who have been previously incarcerated or who have felony convictions. As long as people are willing to work, they can and will provide value and fill jobs that may otherwise go unfilled because of strict regulations associated with their background.
Not all candidates with felony convictions are unemployable, but such convictions do make getting a job challenging. And this is a conundrum for not only the workers and the companies that are trying to hire, but also for our local economies. As long as the number of people who have been recently incarcerated or with felony convictions continues to be significant, there will be a shortage of workers in any field.
The shortage is the result of barriers to employment. Plain and simple, it’s not hard to figure out and it doesn’t take a deep analysis. In industries that are associated with the workforce, there are many requirements to obtain certain certifications, training programs or licenses. Lack of access to said requirements does not apply to those who have had no involvement in the legal system, but remains a significant barrier for people with justice involved backgrounds. This can create a disconnect between the skills that candidates possess and what is required in fields where work is more viable.
One solution is for our state lawmakers to codify equality and a fair chance for all New Jerseyans by introducing legislation that removes all barriers to employment. This allows people with previous felony records to get the experience needed to be competitive candidates for jobs requiring a particular level of education, training and skill set.
On the flip side, we could also see an increase in employers hiring individuals with felony convictions by removing any requirements that these candidates would have to jump through hoops before getting hired or obtaining a job. The simple solve is to remove hurdles altogether, by codifying their removal through legislation as non-issues, or making them irrelevant.
One of the best ways we could do that, would be to end the requirement that people have good credit before they can get a job, because there are so many people that actually have better things to offer than a good credit score. I propose an actual increase in our general labor pool by not relegating people with felony convictions to a lower tier of our already huge labor pool, but diversifying leadership and accelerating engagement in burgeoning, nascent industries like digital marketing, data acquisition and analysis in conjunction with local universities that specialize in these fields.
This could be an opportunity for both businesses and the State of New Jersey. After all, our job market is suffering, so why not offer jobs to those who have previously been in jail, who have a criminal background or who have had a run-in with the justice system? The State of New Jersey would get more tax revenue from people that are being hired and we would also be giving folks with justice involved backgrounds another chance at getting back to doing life.
To some, this might seem like an easy solution to this problem and one that may sound too good to be true. Yet, utilizing compassion, forgiveness and restorative justice practices in the workplace makes this solution actionable and sustainable. This is an opportunity to do the right thing and help establish a just society where it matters most: in the workplace, in the economy and throughout the labor market. Giving people with justice involved backgrounds a fair chance to get back on their feet by offering them employment makes fiscal and civil sense.
But we'll also take advantage of this opportunity by providing businesses with workers that are both qualified and proficient at their jobs. In my opinion, that's a 'win-win' situation. This will not only make communities in New Jersey safer, but it will also bring stability and sustainability to an industry that is truly suffering without solutions.
Finally, to reiterate there would be more opportunities for those who are looking for jobs as well as for those who are seeking to fill positions requiring a particular skill set. To learn more about fair chance hiring in New Jersey please visit njfairchance.org
New Jersey Needs Fair Chance Hiring
With some reformation, the current ban-the-box law can reduce recidivism while promoting equality and opportunity for all citizens. To help stop recidivism and improve reentry for people coming home from incarceration New Jersey must do more than just ‘Ban The Box’
New Jersey could get a lot closer to true equality for all citizens with just a few changes. In fact, New Jersey’s progress has been largely stalled by one major obstacle: the “ban the box” law that prohibits employers from asking about an applicant’s criminal history on initial job applications.
New Jersey’s ban-the-box law is a step in the right direction, as it allows people who have paid their dues to reintegrate into society. The law works well for people with a conviction in their past — primarily those who have committed non-violent crimes — as it gives them an opportunity to prove themselves at an initial interview.
However, the law is ambiguous in its application, as it includes misdemeanors that are typically “small fish” to many employers. These include failure to pay traffic tickets, possession of marijuana in public view, and minor identity-theft charges. These are not “criminal” but rather “miscellaneous” violations that do not increase the risk of recidivism.
Instead, we need to focus on a more legitimate barrier to employment: conviction for a violent crime. There is no reason why employers should have to ask about any criminal conviction, regardless of its severity. Many employers and job seekers have valid reasons for their past convictions, but they shouldn’t have to explain themselves in order to work and support themselves and their families.
If New Jersey took the next step to ensure that employers couldn’t ask about criminal history until a conditional job offer is made, there would be more equality in the workplace. The state’s residents would be able to spend less time finding and maintaining employment, and more time working and supporting their families’ growth.
This change would also bring much-needed equity to minority citizens of all races, who are disproportionately affected by criminal history. Citizens with a conviction for a violent crime should not feel like they are automatically barred from employment opportunities. Moving forward, New Jersey’s government should look at how it can help previously incarcerated people go to work, rather than continue to punish them with more laws. Instead of simply focusing on banning employers from asking about a criminal record, New Jersey should be looking at how it can help people transition successfully from prison to freedom.
We can and should do more to help formerly incarcerated individuals earn a living. The most effective way to do this is by creating fair chance hiring laws that would prevent employers from asking about any type of criminal conviction on initial job applications.
Job applicants should be judged on their qualifications and skills, not their past mistakes. They have been punished, and deserve the opportunity to do so again in a meaningful way that supports their rehabilitation and helps reduce recidivism. True equality means giving everyone the chance to succeed.
EFFECTIVE REENTRY STRATEGIES BENEFIT ALL NEW JERSEYANS
While there are many policies drafted and bills legislated, really the only components that comprise successful reentry are skills, support and shelter.
With these four components, individuals can overcome the challenges that are faced in reentry with ease.
As people are released from prison, most folks face a situation where they have no source of employment, little or no money, little or no support network available to them and no shelter. When these four components are not available, it is nearly impossible for an individual to thrive in their life post-release. This can be seen with the number of people who return to prison within three years of release.
Release from prison is a very hard experience for an individual to go through. Incarceration disrupts all areas in an individual's life; from education, to social support systems, to employment opportunities. Additionally, employment is a key factor in being successful in reentry because it allows an individual to not only provide for themselves, but also provides a source of motivation and pride that can distract from the negative aspects of incarceration.
The issues that are faced with reentry are widespread and very difficult to overcome. It is harder for individuals who have not been exposed to education programs while in prison, have little to no post-release support from their family members, or do not have a job opportunity available that they can take advantage of.
In order to address these issues, the first thing that can be done is provide those incarcerated with educational opportunities. If an individual receives an education while incarcerated, he or she has a much greater chance of self-improvement and success than those who did not receive the same educational opportunities. When family members of an incarcerated individual do not provide positive support, it can be devastating to their successful reentry. Support provides encouragement, motivation and a shoulder to lean on when times get rough. Without this support system available to an individual, they are more likely to feel isolated and alone during reentry.
Lastly, when there aren't employment opportunities available for recently released individuals it makes their transition out of prison even harder. It allows them the opportunity to be able to earn money so they can put a roof over their head and food on the table instead of feeling dependent on others for these basic necessities. In doing so, this provides the individual with pride that helps drive them towards success in life post-release from prison.
Creating pathways to successful reentry is just as incumbent upon the community, as transformation and redemption is expected, if not demanded from formerly incarcerated individuals. Communities need to be aware of these issues and be able to help their communities, the incarcerated and those who support them.
For example, by providing training and education opportunities where they can gain both skills and knowledge on reentry, programs can be designed that would make individuals feel more empowered when it comes time for reentry.
This program could provide educational courses available at local colleges throughout New Jersey. The program could focus on everything from reentry as a whole to specific topics such as housing, employment, family dynamics and so forth. This course would provide assistance to prepare individuals for transitioning back into society after incarceration.
We have to be just as creative at helping people return home from prison, as we have been finding ways to send people to prison. Similarly, we must be willing to listen and have dialogue with folks on issues that will benefit their reentry. We need to create universal income and job guarantee programs which will not only help people meet their basic needs, but also improve their quality of life as well as help create a community where people can feel safe and welcome.
We need to recognize that these returning home from prisons do not want special treatment, they simply want equal opportunity.