News 12 New Jersey is highlighting New Jersey’s diverse Hispanic communities, leaders and organizations as part of Hispanic Heritage Month.
Veronica Allende is the Director of the New Jersey Division of Criminal Justice. Director Allende made history in 2018 as the first Hispanic person to be appointed to the position.
“Our division is charged with the prosecution investigation of a whole host of crimes, whether it’s narcotics distribution, gun trafficking, or it’s prosecuting child predators for child exploitation,” Allende says.
Born and raised in New Jersey, Allende says that her dreams of a career in law enforcement were validated in a middle school classroom.
“My sixth-grade history teacher, Mr. Jeffrey Shaw, had us do a mock trial, a criminal trial, a jury trial, when I was 12 years old…I was signed to be the prosecutor, and I just loved it. I loved the sense of fighting for justice and fighting for those who couldn’t fight for themselves,” she says.
Allende also became interested in criminal justice because of her father, who worked for the New Jersey Department of Corrections.
“He would come home and tell me stories about the individuals who were incarcerated, and really showed me the human side of incarceration and the criminal justice system,” she says.
Allende spent years as a prosecutor at the Essex County Courthouse before eventually becoming director at the Division of Criminal Justice – the first Latina to do so.
“Growing up Latina, I had 100% instilled in me the value of not taking anything for granted… I saw this as an opportunity, of course, to lead the division that I grew up in and love,” she says.
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