New Jersey’s jails and prisons have often faced numerous allegations of prisoner mistreatment, and the state’s police officers have a track record of using excessive force, especially in certain districts, including Newark and Camden.
Although New Jersey’s rate of inmate sexual abuse is lower than the national average, many cases of repeated abuse have been reported. A recent lawsuit by Edna Mahan Correctional Facility inmates shed light on a case of systematic sexual abuse and rape by corrections officers.
According to allegations in the lawsuit, the facility’s authorities were aware of what was taking place, but did nothing to stop it. The text of the complaint states that,
"A pattern and practice exists in the Edna Mahan Correctional Facility where sexual assault is prevalent and frequently perpetrated by corrections officers on inmates."
According to a fact sheet released by The Sentencing Project, analyzing US prison population trends between 1999 and 2015, no other US state shows such appalling racial disparities as New Jersey.
Although the overall population of NJ’s prisons has declined, this has not helped keep African Americans off the correctional system. While New Jersey’s population is only 13% black, over 60% of the state’s prison population is black, revealing a huge racial disproportion.
The population of New Jersey’s juvenile correctional facilities declined by 53% over a 13-year period, but African American youth are still over 24 times more likely to be sent there than caucasian boys and girls. Only two other US states show a similar level of racial disparity in juvenile detention centers. The NJ legislature recently sent a widely-supported Bill to both Senate and Congress, looking to bridge the gap and reduce the disparity for both incarcerated youth and adults.
Prison guards and other law enforcement officers have a duty to keep inmates and suspects safe. When they fail to protect those in custody or violate their rights, they must be held accountable, regardless of their position or rank.
If you or a family member has endured beatings, assault, sexual abuse, or medical neglect while in custody in New Jersey, call us for a free consultation with one of our civil rights experts.
Jail Death and Injury Law in New Jersey
Jail Death and Injury Law’s attorneys are passionate civil rights advocates with a track record of representing abused and neglected inmates in prisons, jails, and other local detention centers in multi-million dollar cases.
Whether you or your loved one were raped, harassed, medically neglected, or beaten as an arrestee or prisoner in a New Jersey correctional facility, your civil rights have been violated, and you have a right to demand damages and justice for the culprits.
Our civil rights pros have experience representing victims and their families in cases involving:
- Beatings and use of tasers
- Murder by inmates or guards
- Medical neglect
- Lack of food and water
- Lack of protection from inmate violence
- Excessive time spent in solitary confinement
- Sexual abuse
- Physical torture
- Psychological torture
- Neglect of mentally ill inmates
- Suicide induced by mistreatment and neglect
Are you an injured victim of New Jersey law enforcement? CALL US 866.836.4684
Or Connect Online
New Jersey’s Police Brutality Exposed
A recent investigation by APP and USA Today found that half the people shot by police in New Jersey between 2014 and 2017 belonged to a minority. Based on information from the local Attorney General’s Office, the research revealed a lack of transparency: reporters discovered that at least 19 police shooting reported in the Washington Post had not been included in the official data released following a Supreme Court order.
For Alexander Shalom of the American Civil Liberties Union,
"One of the problems we have in New Jersey is a lack of transparency about this stuff... If we want to address problems of community mistrust of police, the first step toward doing that is full transparency."
Unfortunately, transparency is not in sight when it comes to use of excessive force by New Jersey cops. Cases reviewed in the investigation include police shootings of children and people who were threatening to commit suicide.
Worst NJ Police Brutality Cases 2014-2017
- 2016, Limichael Shine, Toms River. Teenager holding a knife and threatening to kill himself was shot to death by cops after calling 911. In a handwritten note found in his home, Shine explained that his objective was to “commit suicide by cop.”
- 2015, Julian Hoffman, Brick. Suicidal man with airgun shot to death by police officers responding to a 911 call.
- 2015, Shawn Clyde, Hamilton Township. Shot to death by Hamilton police officers after refusing to drop a knife. An internal use-of-force report listed Clyde as injured, was never updated when he passed away in the hospital as a result of the shootings.
- 2015, Cassie Jones, Asbury Park. 8-year-old girl was grazed by a bullet while in bed, caught in crossfire between police and a suspect.
- 2017, Douglas Matthews, Plainfield. Matthews was arrested on outstanding traffic warrants. He was found dead in a holding cell the same day he was transferred into custody of the local police department.
- 2017, Susan Batista-Zboyan, Perth Amboy. Tasered during an eviction.
- 2015, Oscar Camacho, Camden. Suicidal man with non-functioning gun was shot to death by local police officers. He was unarmed.
- In 2016, Michael Gaffney, Newark. Joseph Maccia, an off-duty police officer, shot Gaffney three times during a bar fight. He was later indicted on manslaughter.
Although New Jersey law enforcement kills fewer suspects during arrest than most US states with a similar population, Mapping Police Violence statistics reveal an appalling racial disproportionality; you are much more likely to be killed in NJ as an African American or Hispanic arrestee.
Filing a Civil Rights Lawsuit in New Jersey
Prisoners, arrestees, and youth in the correctional system have a right to sue counties, states, and individual perpetrators when their civil rights are violated. Under US legislation, direct relatives also have a right to sue on behalf of deceased inmates.
It is not easy to succeed in this type of cases, the court will screen your case, and it is up to them to decide if it can move forward.
Severe abuse, neglect, and wrongful death lawsuits can lead to millions of dollars in compensation and help bring forth much needed reform for New Jersey’s failing prison system. However, proving that an inmate was killed by a guard or died because of their negligence is not easy either.
We co-counsel with local civil rights advocates familiar with New Jersey laws, New Jersey judges, and local courts. With the help of our experienced team of jail death and injury attorneys, investigators and top-notch expert witnesses, our civil rights focused legal team is in an ideal position to find out what exactly happened and put together an iron-clad lawsuit.
Civil rights violated in custody? Take the first step and learn your rights. CALL US 866.836.4684
Or Connect Online
Civil Rights Violations in New Jersey Prisons and Jails
“The number of suits filed by New Jersey inmates has been climbing steadily, up 45 percent since 2006.
Last year prisoners filed more than 1,100. A sampling of the complaints... include that of an inmate who said officials at Hudson County Correctional Center refused to investigate after he was raped by a fellow inmate. Another inmate wrote that overcrowding at the Camden County jail had led to unsafe conditions. A third said he cut his legs on exercise equipment at Southern State Correctional Facility in Cumberland County, requiring 43 staples...
It is rare for New Jersey to settle with an inmate, said Dianne M. Moratti, a deputy state attorney general. The state prevails in 95 percent of such cases, she said. Sometimes officials will go to trial instead of paying even a $1 settlement.”
Simply put, New Jersey has been known to violate the civil rights of detainees, but it seldom wants to pay the price. Jail Death and Injury Law’s attorneys have the skills and resources to overcome those barriers and maximize compensation in your prison neglect and abuse or wrongful death case.
The civil rights of prison inmates can be violated in a variety of ways.
In January 2018, Newsweek ran a story about several New Jersey facilities’ banning of a book about racism and mass incarceration. In the context of NJ prisons’ outrageous racial disparity, it is likely that the authorities presumed that particular reading material might ignite riots.
The book is The New Jim Crow by Michelle Alexander, and its banning (there is evidence of the fact in at least two NJ prisons) was unconstitutional, plain and simple.
Of course, being unable to access a certain book is nothing compared to what once happened to inmates at Bayside State Prison following the murder of a guard. After lockdown was implemented, inmates were, allegedly,
“Repeatedly beaten, dragged, forced to sit handcuffed in the prison gym for hours, threatened with dogs, and paraded through a gauntlet of Special Operations Group officers who beat them with nightsticks.”
In one surveillance video, a guard can be heard saying, “I want him dragged along the floor, just like that, like a pig,” as a hurting inmate begged to be allowed to walk on his two feet.
A 22-year-old inmate at Edna Mahan Correctional Facility had to endure harassment and repeated sexual abuse from several guards for months. When she complained about her situation, officers took revenge by destroying her belongings. Numerous inmates at the women’s correctional facility have recently made similar allegations.
Ulisses Rodriguez, once described as a “vibrant soul” died at Newark’s Northern State Correctional Facility the day after Thanksgiving 2017.
He had spoken to a family member in the morning, when he seemed to be in good health. Prison authorities have not informed the family as to the cause of death, whether there was any violence involved or if paramedics were called. Rodriguez had been arrested for parole violation. His family is still looking for answers.
Immigration detention center Hudson County Correctional Facility was part of a recent government investigation which revealed that the civil rights of suspected illegal immigrants are systematically violated, including threats by guards and various forms of mistreatment.
A 15-year-old boy who was sent to the NJ Medium Security Facility in Bordentown was held in solitary confinement for 23 or 24 hours a day, often restrained, with no mattress or blankets, and absolutely nothing to do; this lasted over a year and a half.
He had mental health problems which were never addressed, or rather, the confinement was the correctional facility’s way of addressing them. In spite of a serious diagnosis, he saw a therapist only a few times. Although the DOJ itself acknowledges the danger of isolation for youth, the Juvenile Justice Commission of New Jersey has been known to keep minors in isolation for offenses like cursing or fighting with another detainee.
New Jersey Jail Death and Injury Lawsuits Reach Multi-Million Dollar Settlements and Foster Policy Changes
New Jersey’s correctional facilities and detention centers do not have the reputation they truly deserve. The state’s failing Justice system often sweeps serious inmate lawsuits under the table.
One of the problems is that a large portion of the 1,000 yearly lawsuits filed by NJ prison inmates are drafted by the victims themselves, without legal counsel. Our attorneys have secured multi-million dollar settlements and verdicts in complex prison neglect and abuse cases, from wrongful death to prison rape and use of excessive force.
- Cumberland County and other NJ counties recently paid $4.5 million to settle a class-action lawsuit over regular strip searches of all inmates at several New Jersey jails, in violation of civil rights.
- A few years ago, the City of Camden overturned numerous convictions and offered $3.5 million as compensation for 88 victims of a ring of corrupt Camden PD officers.
- In 2015, Cumberland County paid $1.54 million to Michael Alan Ewing, who was assaulted and severely injured by correctional officers during a stay at Cumberland County Jail in 2008. Ewing had been arrested for disruptive behavior near a city hotel. When he entered the jail, he only had a head injury; when he was sent to the hospital shortly after, he had several fractures (skull, lumbar, mandible, ribs, and more), renal artery injuries, traumatic shock, several open wounds, testicle damage, and post-traumatic stress disorder. Defendants in the lawsuit included, among others, Cumberland County Correctional, several correctional officers, Vineland Police Department, Cumberland County, and the City of Vineland.
- After 65-year-old Joel Seidel was beaten to death by another mentally ill inmate at Camden County Jail, his family filed a wrongful death lawsuit against Camden County Department of Corrections, Camden County, the jail’s healthcare services, and several correctional officers. Seidel’s family received a $4 million settlement.
- The complaint argued that his death had been caused by jail overcrowding, inadequate mental healthcare, and insufficient monitoring.
- The Juvenile Law Center reached a $400,000 settlement in the case of two boys who suffered inhuman solitary confinement at NJ’s juvenile correctional facilities. T.D., a boy of fifteen with a serious mental diagnosis, was kept in solitary in extremely abusive conditions at the NJ Medium Security Facility between February 2009 and October 2010.
- O.S. was kept in confinement for misbehavior such as being the victim of an assault by another youth and using curse words. He was sanctioned without due process or any chance to contest accusations. The lawsuit filed by Juvenile Law Center also challenged New Jersey administrative regulations which allow youth to be kept in isolation for a indefinite amount of time if they have serious mental health problems or for disciplinary issues, without any due process requirements.
- Robert Woodruff, a man who spent some time at Sussex County jail, received a $150,000 settlement. According to his 2015 lawsuit, a corrections officer had arranged for three other inmates to assault him in retaliation for Woodruff’s robbery of the officer’s house.
- The family of Daniel J. Klein III was awarded $699,000 after he hanged himself at Somerset County jail. Although he had a history of attempting suicide, he received no related mental health care and was insufficiently monitored. Somerset County Sheriff Frank Provenzano was among the defendants.
There Are Time Limits for Seeking Compensation in New Jersey. Act Now to Get Justice and Foster Reform
In New Jersey, you have two years to file a wrongful death lawsuit.
If your loved one has died as a result of prison neglect or abuse, you must act now to ensure your case will be heard.
The state has a history of ignoring claims, and you need a seasoned team of civil rights attorneys on your side to maximize compensation and help forward policy changes that can save lives in the future. Contact Jail Death and Injury Law attorneys as soon as possible.
While you may not be able to bring your loved one back to life, you can help them rest in peace and prevent further abuse and neglect at New Jersey’s detention centers.
Take the First Step. Talk to a Jail Injury Lawyer. CALL US 866.836.4684
Or Connect Online