THE SAD SAGA OF HALFWAY HOUSE MISDEEDS, GOV. CHRISTIE’S EFFORTS TO MINIMIZE THE PROBLEMS & THE LEGISLATURE’S INACTION
Many will remember the NY Times three-part series of articles in June 2012: UNLOCKED: I. As Escapees Stream Out a Penal Business Thrives, II. At a Halfway House Bedlam Reigns, and III. A Volatile Mix Fuels A Murder. Blue Jersey and other news sources wrote extensively about the problems, including Governor Christie’s disinterest in the matter and the legislature’s hearings chaired by Sen. Bob Gordon (D-38) and Assemblyman Charles Mainor (D-31) which promised action but produced nothing.
In the most recent development the NJ Law Journal reports this week, “The family of a woman murdered by a halfway house inmate who absconded after faking a seizure can sue the State contractor who operates the facility, a federal judge in New Jersey has ruled.” The contractor is Community Education Centers (CEC) from whose halfway house David Goodell absconded and hours later murdered a woman. The Journal continues, “The judge on Monday allowed to stand claims that the facilities – mismanaged, understaffed, and plagued by a high rate of escapes and other problems – breached their duty of care to the eventual victim.” Viviana Tulli was the tragically murdered victim.
Viviana Tulli’s sister Stella Tulli-Makowski had opened the Assembly hearing with testimony of heart-felt emotion and listened to Assemblyman Charles Mainor (D-31) say, “When escapes, gang activity, drugs and sexual abuse are widespread and yet Governor Christie opposes improved oversight, something is wrong and terribly unacceptable.” Sadly efforts from Sen. Loretta Weinberg and others were dismissed by Gov. Christie, and no reform bills were past by the Legislature. After hearing the court’s decision this week StellaTulli-Makowsk says, “I am greatly disappointed in the lag time in halfway house reform. To me, I feel like empty promises were made to stave off the public.”
One of the few tangible results has been that Christie’s close friend and political confidante Bill Palatucci, who for years served as a Senior Vice President at CEC, quietly resigned from his post there. Stella Tulli-Makowski goes on to say, “If people really wanted this reform, it would be happening… not lingering in limbo. What will it take for a real, honest approach of trying to repair this broken and corrupt system? Another murder? Or will the death of a public official’s loved one finally get the ball rolling?… Please, don’t talk about it….be about it.”
Naughty or Nice?: U.S. Senators Robert Menendez (sponsor) and Cory Booker (co-sponsor) along with 32 other co-sponsors are taking heat for introducing Senate Bill S1881: Nuclear Weapon Free Iran Act of 2013. Ten Senate committee chairs are circulating a joint letter to Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada, urging him to reject then effort by Menendez to tighten sanctions on Iran and warning that his bill could disrupt ongoing nuclear negotiations.” Press Secretary Jay Carney said, “The president would veto it.” Nonetheless, as the NY Times points out, the bill would only “impose new sanctions on Iran if it failed to conclude a nuclear agreement, or stick to the terms of its interim deal, with the United States and other major powers.” The bill permits a 180-day wait – and – see period before imposing further sanctions. If you like the bill join the company of other sponsors including Sens. Chuck Schumer, Kirsten Gillibrand, and Mark Kirk as well as Lindsey Graham, Marco Rubio, and Ted Cruz. Apparently birds of different feathers flock together.
American Hustle (Hollywood style): This funny movie, with excellent actors and great dialogue, has a basis in the infamous Abscam scandal and “some of this [in the movie] actually happened.” It takes place in New Jersey with stereotypes we Jerseyans have learned to love and hate. It brings back memories of past crooks including scam artists, greedy politicians, and devious federal agents. Perhaps it also reminds us that such folks are still with us. However, let’s not take the Jersey angle too seriously. It’s just a movie. What it portrays is universal and as a story it is a damn good one.