CEC Investigation: The Clamor and Urgency Grow – Part IV

The Senate and Assembly are each now considering launching an investigation into NJ halfway houses, most of which are operated by Community Education Centers (CEC). Senate President Steve Sweeney (D-3) has approved the Senate Legislative Oversight Committee to launch an investigation if committee Chairman Senator Robert Gordon (D-38) wishes to proceed. Assemblyman Charles Mainor (D-31), chair of the Assembly Law and Public Safety Committee, has said, “We definitely want a hearing and we want to concentrate on finding out why there are so many escapes going on, along with the recidivism, along with the crime that’s being committed by people that are escaping.”

Prior to the release of the NY Times’ scathing report on CEC and halfway houses, Governor Christie said at CEC’s Delaney Hall in 2010, this is “someplace where the work is purely good.” “Places like this are to be celebrated.” Just months before an inmate was murdered there. After release of the report Christie said his administration “takes its responsibility to properly administer this program very seriously.” Nonetheless, he line-item vetoed two important provisions which Senate Majority Leader Loretta Weinberg (D-37) wrote into the Budget bill. Christie has been aware of these problems since even before becoming governor. His approach has been to sweep them under the rug, use line item vetoes and only grudgingly make minimal changes.

Christie’s numerous connections to CEC, CEC’s significant donations to his campaign, and Christie’s overriding belief in privatization all serve to create conflicts of interest. As the NY Times series documents, Governor Christie’s championing of CEC started in 2001 when he and law partner William Palatucci became registered lobbyists for CEC. Palatucci went on to become a vice President of CEC and close confidante of the governor. Since Christie took office 1,300 halfway house inmates have escaped, one of whom went on to murder a woman within hours of escaping from a CEC facility. Last summer Christie attended the wedding of the daughter of John Clancy, Founder and Chief Executive of CEC. Christie hired the groom, Samuel Vivattine, to work as an assistant in his office. Paul Krugman in a NY Times piece concludes what we are witnessing is a corrupt nexus of privatization and patronage that is undermining government across much of our nation.

It is not surprising that a wide variety of media and individuals have raised a hue and cry. See below the fold outraged editorials and commentary, as well as responses from two apologists/defenders.  

Editorials and Opinions

  • Asbury Park Press: Wholesale Horrors at Halfway Houses

  • Record/Alfred Doblin: In Halfway Houses, They Hear You Scream

  • Record/Brigid Harrison (quoted): “The revelations could become something akin to a “Willie Horton” predicament for Christie.”

  • NJ Hall Institute of Public Policy/Michael Riccards: The Romance Is Over
  • Courier Post: Christie Wrong on Halfway House Veto

  • Times of Trenton: N.J.’s Privately Run Halfway Houses Face Serious Oversight Problems

  • New York Times: Halfway Houses in New Jersey

  • NY Times/Paul Krugman: Prisons, Privatization, Patronage

  • Philadelphia Inquirer: Keep An Eye on Halfway Houses

  • Press statement/Senator Barbara Buono (D-18): “The high rate of escapees from the halfway houses is an indictment of the administration on one of its most important public safety responsibilities.”

  • MSNBC/Lawrence O’Donnell: Halfway House Scandal Knocks Christie off Romney’s Short List

  • Salon/Steve Kornacki: Chris Christie’s Willie Horton Problem


  • NJToday/William Palatucci (CEC Vice President): “The NY Times has an agenda ‘to hurt New Jersey and to hurt this governor.'”

    Save Jersey/Matt Rooney: After reading Part I and II of the NY Times article, “Why is this big news? I’m not sure it is, as of this writing… or, as is sadly often the case, Mr. Palatucci is simply guilty of ‘prospering while Republican.'”

  • Comment (1)

    1. firstamend07

      It has been 18 full days since the Governor ordered ” stepped up” investigations.

      Simple question.

      What has ben stepped up?


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