Tag Archive: halfway houses

No Remorse: A dangerous convict in a halfway house escapes and commits murder

David Goodell in jail bragged that he would kill his girlfriend while he was already planning his escape. After being transferred to a Community Education Centers (CEC) halfway house in Newark Goodell feigned illness, was taken to a hospital and broke loose. Within hours he murdered Viviana Tulli. After being apprehended a Lieutenant Corrections Officer says Goodell was potentially one of the most dangerous guys he has had in his jail.

You can see and hear Goodell in the Bergen County Jail on a new MSNBC episode of LOCKUP: New Jersey – No Remorse premiering Saturday at 10:00pm. You can catch a preview here, or watch the video here after the show has aired. LOCKUP has been running other New Jersey jail episodes which you can view here.

During Saturday’s episode there is an interview with Viviana’s sister Stella Tulli-Makowski who talks about the loss to her family. Stella has said “David Goodell, in my opinion, has now become the poster boy for someone who should have never set foot in a halfway house, let alone paroled early.”

At a Bergen Record editorial board meeting in June 2012, Governor Christie was asked if he would consider reaching out to the family of Viviana Tulli. Christie called the question unfair. He said the incident happened when Democrat Jon Corzine was governor. “So to ask me that question presupposes that I have responsibility for something … that didn’t happen on my watch,” he stressed. That claim was false. The incident occurred in August 2010, eight months after Christie took office.

Who knows? Maybe Christie is a fan of Lockup and will see the show. Will he feel any remorse? Will he call Stella? Will he bring reform to halfway houses – a problem he prefers to minimize and ignore? (His campaign has received CEC donations and his political confidante Bill Palatucci used to work for CEC.) Will the Legislature which held hearings on the matter finally take action? You can read the excellent NY Times exposé of  NJ halfway houses UNLOCKED here.

Stella in July 2013 out of frustration wrote a diary for Blue Jersey, One year later AFTER Assembly hearing for Halfway House reform. She continues her crusade. She says what happened to her sister and her family could happen to anyone.  

Records Show Top Chris Christie Advisor Lobbied To Bring More Inmates To Troubled Halfway Houses

Promoted by Rosi. Originally posted on Firedoglake.

Viviana Tulli was murdered by an escaped halfway house inmate



One of the most confusing aspects of the halfway house scandal – where numerous inmates escaped  halfway houses and committed horrendous crimes – is why such violent individuals would ever be released to such a low security facility in the first place. Based on records obtained by Firedoglake under New Jersey’s Open Public Records Act (OPRA) we may be closer to an answer.

Bill Palatucci, a major fundraiser and former business partner of Governor Chris Christie, has spent copious amounts of time lobbying New Jersey officials to bolster the halfway house system for his longtime client and subsequent employer Community Education Centers (CEC) that has financially benefited from increased use of the halfway house system. Records show Palatucci was CEC’s registered lobbyist while also becoming a vice president for business development.

Lobbying For CEC

In his role as a lobbyist for CEC, for which he was generally paid $45,000 a year, Palatucci approached officials in both the New Jersey State Legislature, State Agencies, and the Governor’s office to promote CEC’s interests:

* In 2007 Palatucci lobbied then Governor Jon Corzine as well as the New Jersey Department of Corrections for a public contract for CEC in relation to a recent court ruling that found that local ordinances prohibiting the treatment sex offenders in various communities were “arbitrary and capricious.” Presumably Palatucci lobbied to help expand the use of halfway houses and other CEC services now that a court had struck down laws that prevented sex offenders from being housed within certain limits of children.

* In 2008 Palatucci lobbied the new State Parole Board chair and staff with a “discussion of services.” He also lobbied Assemblyman Louis Greenwald regarding Assembly Bill 2800 which increased funding for halfway houses. Additionally, Palatucci paid a visit to New Jersey Department of Community Affairs to “advocate review” of halfway housing licensing laws on behalf of CEC.

* In 2009 Palatucci lobbied again for halfway house licensing from Department of Community Affairs as well as for favorably amending a contract between CEC and Department of Corrections. Palatucci also disclosed that he was promoting a bill to expand halfway houses in the state of New Jersey.

After Chris Christie became governor in 2010, with considerable help from Palatucci, CEC began using other lobbyists. Palatucci had already gone beyond lobbying with CEC becoming senior vice president and general counsel for public affairs, he would ultimately resign from those positions in the wake of the halfway house scandal in 2012.

More after the jump

What’s Happening Today Tue. 12/31/2013

UNFINISHED BUSINESS

As 2013 fades into history, let’s look forward to tomorrow. There is plenty of unfinished business to occupy our attention in 2014. Here are some suggestions:

  • Budget Safety Net: The poor and the middle class are not a priority for Gov. Christie, but with an upcoming strained budget they must be for the legislature.

  • Comprehensive Immigration Reform: Continue local efforts in support of this national initiative and urge your congressman to support it.

  • Drug Courts & Sentencing: Gov. Christie supports drug courts but more funding is needed. It is time to reduce prison entries for nonviolent offenders and revamp existing drug laws.

  • Earned Income Tax Credit: Gov. Christie should restore the credit to 25%.

  • Economy: Reduce wasteful subsidies to large corporations and invest more in good schools and a well-trained, highly-educated workforce.  

  • Education: Expand State-funded pre-school classes for needy kids and reduce inflated college costs.

  • Financial Assistance for Dreamers: The other half of the Dream Act.

  • Gun Control: The legislature should reintroduce bills vetoed by Gov. Christie.

  • GWB Scandal: Find out the truth behind the lane closures and reform the Port Authority.

  • Halfway Houses: Reform this system which is a bonanza for corporations and politicians but no help for inmates or the public.

  • Health Insurance & Medicaid: Provide education and assistance to assure more enrollment into better quality ACA insurance and into the expanded Medicaid program.

  • Housing: Gov. Christie should end his raiding and obstruction of the affordable housing program.

  • Infrastructure: New Jersey has about $70 billion worth of infrastructure work and the price tag will only increase if the state continues to put off making the needed improvements.

  • Marriage Equality: Continue discussion as to whether ME should be passed by the legislature, and create a veto-proof majority.

  • Millionaire Tax Surcharge: Implement this fair and essential method to increase needed state revenue.

  • Pinelands & Fracking: There should be no gas line through the Pinelands. There should be no fracking or transportation or disposal of its waste in NJ.

  • Property Tax: Encourage (and remove barriers to) consolidation and sharing services.

  • Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative: Christie withdrew NJ from RGGI. It’s time to rejoin the initiative.

  • Retire Rep. Scott Garrett (CD 5): Will a worthy opponent please stand up.

  • Sandy Recovery: Start with transparency, bring an end to discrimination, assure financial aid to those most in need, strengthen the State-wide plan (including safe location for buses and trains) and insist on resiliency.

  • Solar Power: The administration should move forward with plans for offshore facilities.

  • Supreme Court Nominees: Christie has already placed two Republicans on the court. He should nominate a Democrat and grant tenure to Chief Justice Stuart Rabner or the Senate should continue ignoring his nominees.

  • Womens’ Healthcare: Gov. Christie should fund Planned Parenthood.

    Open thread: What is on your agenda for 2014?

     

  • One Year Later: Where Is The Promised Halfway House Reform?

    In 2010 David Goodell, while serving a four-year prison term for an assault conviction, escaped custody of a Newark halfway house run by Community Education Center (CEC). Hours later he murdered Viviana Tullli. On Thursday in court he pleaded guilty to the brutal murder. He said “I grabbed her by the neck and strangled her.” This killing, among other grave problems, formed a part of Sam Dolnick’s N. Y. Times June 2012 riveting investigative report Unlocked.

    One year after the report and after two legislative hearings that promised action, Stella Tulli, sister of the deceased, had to relive the memory Thursday of Viviana’s murder with no consolation that our government was taking action to reform halfway houses and prevent such atrocities in the future. She said on Friday, “The guilty plea did awaken a lot of pain today. I feel like the day after I was told of her death. After a while people get tired of hearing about it, but I still continue.”

    Stella Tulli testified with heart-felt emotion before both the Senate and Assembly hearings in July. As Sam Dolnick reports yesterday, “After the hearings, lawmakers introduced a package of more than a dozen bills that would reshape the halfway house system, increasing regulation and overhauling the contracts with the private companies. None of those bills have been approved.” Instead legislators created a task force. During the past year Stella Tulli says she e-mailed legislators who were on the hearings, and some responded but others did not.

    Prior to the release of the N. Y. Times’ scathing series Governor Christie said at a CEC facility  this is “someplace where the work is purely good.” “Places like this are to be celebrated.” 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. His approach has been to sweep halfway house problems 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. Two years ago 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 N. Y. Times piece concludes, “What we are witnessing is a corrupt nexus of privatization and patronage that is undermining government across much of our nation.”

    Sen. Barbara Buono: What’s Not To Like?

    In today’s world of media short attention span no sooner is one issue raised in the gubernatorial campaign than it is quickly supplanted by another. We rapidly lose track of the totality – the many differences between the positions of each person. Let’s take a look at key issues and compare the two main candidates.

  •  Property taxes: She’s champions efforts to hold down property taxes by asking the wealthiest to pay their fair share. He does not.

  •  Miinimum wage: She supports increasing it and and indexing it to inflation. He does not.

  •  Earned Income Tax Credit – She supports raising it back unconditionally to 25%. He lowered it to 20% and uses it as a gimmick to further other ends.

  •  School education: She supports more funding for schools and seeks to protect collective bargaining rights for teachers. In his first year in office he reduced funding by $820 million and has been antagonistic toward bargaining.

  •  Environment: She supported the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative and wants to put an end to using waivers that allow polluters to dirty our air and water, and jeopardize public health. He does not.

  •  Marriage equality: She embraces it. He runs away from the issue, vetoes the legislative bill, and hides under his call for a public vote on the issue.

  •  Women’s health care: She supports funding for Planned Parenthood. He does not.

  •  Transportation: She supported the building of the ARC tunnel and understands the value of investing in our infrastructure. He ended ARC and he invests too little in our infrastructure.

  •  Gun violence: She calls for the reduction in magazine size from 15 to 10, an end to the private sale loophole, and a law requiring face-to-face sale of ammunition. He does not.

  • Oversight: She has questioned recently the management of halfway houses and AshBritt’s debris removal costs. He resists oversight.

    Senator Barbara Buono lays out her positions on these issues in her web site. The incumbent governor, in his web site, preferring only to laud his accomplishments, does not.  

    What’s not to like?  

  • Murder victim’s sister slams Christie corrections chief’s remarks

    Something has bothered me all week since Bill Orr’s excellent post, Gary Lanigan’s Head: Stuck in the Sand. Lanigan, to refresh you, is Christie’s Corrections Commissioner. He’s not concerned about security and safety issues at NJ’s halfway houses, despite the fact it took the New York Times to get our state government to pay much attention, despite escapes during Hurricane Sandy (seriously, the system fails because of … weather?), and concerns that Christie friend/advisor/contributor till recently ran the corporate privatizer responsible for most of the issues. Lanigan’s job encompasses not only security concerns but also the rights of inmates and the community.

    That said, his remarks to Senate Budget were so casual, as if he doesn’t take seriously how easily the system we’ve now let tycoons take over can be tricked by inmates. Yesterday, I chatted with Stella Tulli, whose sister was murdered by a man who fled a CEC facility by pretending to be sick. As irritating as Lanigan’s remarks were to me, they were something else beyond that for her. I thought part of what she wrote in Bill’s post deserved to be pulled up to our front page (which she gave permission for). Here’s how it looks to Stella:

    I have a personal interest in the way the halfway house situation is going… I feel the need to speak and remind everyone who reads this on my family’s dealings with this situation..

    My 21 year old sister was murdered by a CEC inmate who faked a seizure, transported to hospital and bc of  not having any law enforcement with him, he escaped.

    He then met up with my sister and ended her life.

    This may be a small “anecdote” to Lanigan, but to my family and myself- our lives continue in a nightmarish reality.. Reading this garbage from Lanigan and seeing how much time it is getting to move on halfway house reform is another punch to the gut.

    It floors and appalls me that Gary Lanigan is not bothered in the least on this situation.  

    The corrections commissioner in Pennsylvania admits there is a problem with the halfway house system, yet this guy can’t bring himself to admit it. I can only assume the more he tells himself it isn’t a problem, it isn’t.  seems as if he needs to convince not only himself, but the lemmings as well.

    Waiting/forgetting/not knowing which to do

    Waiting is painful. Forgetting is painful. But not knowing which to do is the worse kind of suffering. Paulo Coelho

    There is too much waiting, forgetting, or not knowing which to do nowadays:

  •  U. S. Senate Sandy legislation: Sen. Majority Leader Harry Reid signaled yesterday afternoon that he would try to push ahead with a package to aid Superstorm Sandy victims even as debate continues on revisions to the Senate’s filibuster rules. However, it is not on today’s Senate schedule and may not be taken up until after the rules situation gets resolved. Come on Senators, people are hurting and need the funds.

  •  Undecided Democratic candidates for Governor: The primary is not until June 4, but time has about run out. For example, anyone seeking the Bergen County Democratic Party “line” must notify the committee in three weeks – by Feb 15. Bergen’s nominating convention is on March 5. Senator Barbara Buono has stepped out onto the stage. At this point any bashful candidates hiding behind the curtain should know it is beyond time to come out into the spotlight.

  •  Governor’s decision on raising the minimum wage bill: Christie must either sign, veto, or conditionally veto this legislation by early next week. He has said he opposes the indexing feature which automatically raises future rates based on the CPI. With a veto the legislature should move to put the matter on the ballot. Christie could have announced his decision earlier, but sadly we can expect a depressing press release some evening soon.

  •  Hurricane Sandy NJ Relief Fund: In spite of pledges of $31 million this group has yet to distribute any monies. $1 million has been allocated in its first round of grants, which may go out by mid- February to long-term regional recovery committees, which in turn will then make awards to local agencies. Slow as molasses.

  •  Halfway house reform: The NY Times broke its story about the correctional horrors (particularly at CEC) in June last year. The legislature rushed to hold hearings, and then to Christie’s delight dropped the ball. Whatsup?

  •  Roe v. Wade: This ruling has been trampled on in the last 40 years and awaits a rebirth with strong current popular support, while state legislatures simultaneously passed 135 laws restricting it in 2011 and 2012. The US Supreme Court, legislatures and Christie should take note and rejoin the 21st century.

  •  Federal climate change, immigration, energy and gun safety legislation: Little action so far but they are no-brainers.

    Whether it’s waiting, forgetting, or not knowing which to do, it’s painful.

     

  • Hotshot Reporting 2012: Best Reporting by Traditional News Media

    In 2012, there were a lot of things we might never have known if good journalists, good editors and their news outlets had not devoted resources to uncovering them. Sometimes this was simply a matter of going through mountains of paper or on line communication that is public record as a matter of law. But somebody had to do it, which usually means somebody else would rather it stay hidden.

    Here for 2012, are some that really impressed us here at Blue Jersey, with thanks to the news organizations, and their editors & reporters for what we now know because of their work:  

    Associated Press on Surveillance of NJ Muslims AP’s 24-part 2-year probe of NYPD’s secret surveillance (by the questionably-named ‘Demographics Unit’) of Muslim students, neighborhoods and places of worship in New Jersey.

    UNLOCKED: Sam Dolnick’s New York Times exposé  of the consequences of New Jersey’s privatized halfway house system run by Christie pal Bill Palatucci, which led to hearings in both houses of the NJ legislature, Palatucci’s exit out CEC’s back door, and at least one lawsuit, by the sister of murder victim Viviana Tulli, killed at the hands of a CEC escapee.  (Note: Bill Orr tracked the aftermath of questionable policies by CEC for Blue Jersey).

    Dolnick was looking at CEC and how Christie and Essex party boss Joe D were connected to it almost 18 months ago.

    Star-Ledger brought to light the video of a mentally disabled man getting a beat down by state police as well (as well as the fact that authorities initially cleared the trooper of wrongdoing before Star-Ledger began to make inquiries.

    Sal Rizzo at Star-Ledger was responsible for the Ledger’s in-depth examination  of how closely legislation from Christie & NJ Republicans matched bills written by fake-charity American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC).

    Trenton Times recently pored over 500 pages of emails and documents after TCNJ employees fall sick during chemical use in roof reconstruction on the campus. And that includes shedding light on internal emails about how TCNJ school officials, concerned staff members might require inconvenient building transfers to somewhere on campus where they wouldn’t feel ill at work, encouraged “hand holding” by administrators and the school’s environmental health officers to get workers to “live with” the odor that was making them feel sick.

    A Sign of Progress in Halfway House Reform

    Following legislative halfway house hearings four months ago, Assemblyman Chales Mainor (D-31) Chair, Law & Public Safety Committee, has introduced five new bills. They could have a substantial impact on halfway house operators (particularly the largest, Community Education Centers), inmate security and services, and public safety. Mainor is joined by primary sponsors Bonnie Watson Coleman (D-15), Gilbert Wilson (D-5), Daniel Benson (D-14), Nelson Albano (D-1) and Joseph Cryan (D-20). The text of the bills has not yet been posted, but the brief description of each and my comments in brackets, suggest that key issues are being addressed:

  •  A3502 – Requires DOC to conduct quarterly site visits at residential community release programs. [In the past there have been insufficient monitoring site visits.]

  •  A3503 – Establishes “Task Force To Review Residential Community Release Programs” to review this State’s halfway houses and make recommendations concerning security and inmate services. [A lack of security and inmate services have been a significant problem.]

  •  A3504 – Prohibits pre-trial county inmates charged with first, second, or third degree crimes from being placed in halfway houses. [Placing such inmates in halfway houses, never designed for such prisoners, has been a major cause of violence, escapes, and drugs.]

  •  A3505 – Requires the Division of Purchase and Property to award contracts to halfway houses; sets forth certain contract requirements. [Removes contracting from Department of Corrections, which has mismanaged the awarding and overseeing of operators, and creates needed new standards.]

  •  A3506 – Requires residential community release programs to file certain financial disclosure documents with DOC. [There has been a lack of halfway house financial transparency and incidents of overbilling.]

    These bills and others still need to wend their way through the legislature and may face opposition from Governor Christie who has blocked previous reform efforts. They are a good start.  

  • Senate Democratic Leadership – Part 2

    Yesterday, I interviewed Senate President Steve Sweeney and Majority Leader Loretta Weinberg. Part 1 was posted yesterday, here.

    In Part 2, below, the senators discuss the issues with New Jersey’s halfway houses, Governor Christie’s intransigence on providing low cost insurance through health exchanges, the vacancies on the state Supreme Court, the so-called Jersey Comeback, and Senator Weinberg’s Jersey Girls Caucus.