Law Enforcement Officials, Faith-Based Leaders and Educators Address Social Issues Impacting the Hispanic Community at Berkeley College in Newark

Contact: Ilene Greenfield
Director of Media Relations
973-278-5400, ext. 1-5122



Officials from law enforcement, higher education and the local faith-based community came together for a dialogue on strengthening New Jersey’s communities during the Hispanic Leadership Forum on Social Justice, held August 22, 2016, at Berkeley College in Newark. The panelists addressed issues facing diverse urban communities including juvenile justice, prison re-entry, bail reform and higher education.

“Fear is in town today. We must look at each person as another self and address the pain and suffering that is harmful to our communities,” said Rev. Jose C. Lopez, CEO/President, New Jersey Center for Empowerment and Community Development, which organized the Forum. “Civil dialogue can help eliminate fear and is a starting point,” said Rev. Lopez.

The panelists opened the dialogue with their personal and professional histories, and related in many instances how the encouragement of a single person helped them overcome misperceptions and barriers to attaining their education and professional aspirations. The group discussed race, culture, class and gender and the roles they play in law enforcement, the judicial system, education and the quality of life in communities.

Moya Bansile, Professor, Legal Studies, Berkeley College School of Professional Studies, said one-on-one mentorship, education and social reform, are among the factors in fostering social equity among America’s diverse society. “I want to motivate and inspire my students to develop a sense of self-awareness and a depth of knowledge about the (U.S.) Constitution and to feel comfortable challenging systems and laws to make them fairer.”

Camelia Valdes, Passaic County Prosecutor, discussed a constitutional amendment on bail reform in New Jersey being piloted in Passaic County. The bail reform law, which goes into effect on January 1, 2017, requires full hearings within 48 hours for the most dangerous defendants, said Ms. Valdes. At the same time, most low-risk offenders who cannot afford to pay bail, and who meet certain requirements, would not have to spend time in jail prior to their court hearing.  “These reforms will have an impact on expediting our most violent offenders and will reduce the county jail population,” Ms. Valdes said.

Ms. Valdes and Margarita Rivera, Assistant Prosecutor, Essex County Prosecutor’s Office, also spoke about how socio-economic disparities, including gaps in education and employment, impact crime and the criminal justice system.

“If we are going to have a responsible conversation about crime, we need to talk about all the factors that lead to crime,” Ms. Valdes said.

“We have to address the factors (that lead to crime) and educate the public,” added Ms. Rivera.

Ralph Grant, Vice President, Operations and Public Affairs, Pillar College, said that access to education plays an important role in reducing crime and opening opportunities for youth.

“We need to ask ‘How do we get from where we are to where we want to go?’ ” Mr. Grant said. “Yes, education is expensive, but if you think education is expensive, try ignorance.”

The panelists also conversed with Berkeley College faculty about important social justice issues that should be discussed in the classroom, such as the ripple effects of incarceration on communities and families, and equity in media coverage.

There are more than 55 million Hispanics in the United States and 1.5 million in New Jersey, according to the 2010 U.S. Census. National Hispanic Heritage Month will be observed at Berkeley College from September 15 to October 15, 2016.

Photo Caption: (Top) Rev. Jose C. Lopez, CEO/President New Jersey Center for Empowerment and Community Development, addresses a panel of community leaders at the Hispanic Leadership Forum at Berkeley College. (Above, L to R) Moya Bansile, Professor, Legal Studies, Berkeley College School of Professional Studies; Margarita Rivera, Assistant Prosecutor, Essex County Prosecutor’s Office; Angela Harrington, Berkeley College Assistant Vice President, Communications and External Relations; Camelia Valdes, Passaic County Prosecutor; Rev. Lopez; Juanita Lopez; and Joel Martinez, Campus Operating Officer, Berkeley College Newark. Not pictured is Ralph Grant, PhD, Vice President, Operations and Public Affairs, Pillar College.

A leader in providing career-focused education since 1931, Berkeley College is accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education and enrolls approximately 8,300 students – including more than 700 international students – in its Baccalaureate and Associate degree and Certificate programs. Students can study in more than 20 career fields. Berkeley College is comprised of the Larry L. Luing School of Business®, the School of Professional Studies, the School of Health Studies and the School of Liberal Arts. The School of Graduate Studies offers a Master of Business Administration degree in Management online and in Woodland Park, NJ.

Berkeley College has five New Jersey campuses – Dover, Newark, Paramus, Woodbridge and Woodland Park. In New York there are three campuses – Midtown Manhattan, Brooklyn and White Plains. Berkeley College Online® serves a global population. In 2016, U.S. News & World Report named Berkeley College among the Best Colleges for Online Bachelor’s Programs and among the Best Online Bachelor’s Programs for Veterans, both for the third consecutive year. The website address is

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