Tag Archive: Gary Lanigan

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.

CEC Investigation: Our Legislators Take Action – Part VII

After years of groups and individuals raising warning signs about problems in halfway houses, the issue was placed in stark relief in a N Y Times devastating series of articles Unlocked by Sam Dolnick. On Thursday the Senate Legislative Oversight Committee chaired by Bob Gordon (D-37) and vice-chaired by Barbara Buono (D-18) will hold a hearing. On Monday the Assembly Law and Public Safety Committee chaired by Charles Mainor (D-31) and vice chaired by Gilbert Wilson (D-5) will hold another hearing. The goals are to understand the problems and bring about solutions.

The Problems: Past articles in the Blue Jersey CEC Investigation series have highlighted serious improprieties regarding halfway houses – particularly those of Community Education Centers (CEC), which last year received $71 million out of $105 million in government expenses. It is a story of CEC’s Founder John Clancy who used a dubious agreement from a prior Attorney General to set up a shell non-profit company and then through large political contributions, lobbying, PR, a well connected legal VP, and friendship with a U.S. attorney and later governor to create a large corrections corporation. With insufficient monitoring from the Department of Corrections (DOC), this company ran facilities that bred an atmosphere of inmate drugs, escapes, violence, gangs, rapes, and deaths. With unqualified staff, security was compromised, the public at large was placed in danger with unnecessary escapes, and the goal of helping to reduce recidivism was given short shrift.

Christie confidante and CEC Senior Vice President, William Palatucci aided, abetted and defended CEC. Governor Christie as a lawyer at Dughi and Hewitt, as U.S. Attorney, and later as governor at a minimum praised and enabled the activities of CEC. He failed to implement remedies that other more responsible parties were calling for over the years, and he may have done so willfully and improperly. Now we are at the point where the valid role of halfway houses is being discredited, and the largest company in New Jersey is facing such severe financial problems that the DOC might need to take over at a moment’s notice thousands of inmates lodged annually in CEC facilities. CEC failings are not confined to NJ DOC contracts, but extend to those held by NJ local governments and such states as Texas, Alabama, and Colorado.

There are numerous solutions. The agreement that allowed CEC to use a non-profit organization as a front, in contravention to established regulations, should be ended for any future contracts and possibly existing contracts. CEC was able to build a monopolistic position, and it is now time to enable legitimate non profits to compete fairly for DOC contracts small and large. The Boxer audit laid out key recommendations for remedies, and it is essential to establish what progress DOC has achieved so far and to assure the recommendations are met. Dangerous inmates should not be lodged in halfway houses. The security and living conditions of inmates need to be improved. Process measures must be established to assure that the goals of reducing recidivism through drug treatment, job readiness, and other skills preparatory to re-entering the general population are being well administered. More qualified staffing is important. Pay-to-play regulations urgently need strengthening. People like Governor Christie should be disabused of the notion that privatization brings huge savings, as previous studies have shown that such savings are scant. Goals should include integrity, safety, and reducing recidivism not an elusive search for savings.

Below the fold are suggestions for some of the individuals who should testify and what questions legislators might ask the individuals.

 

CEC Investigation: The Rubber Hits The Road – Part V

“The recent disclosures about security lapses and other failures at the halfway houses contracted by the Department of Corrections (DOC) document a disturbing history of mismanagement and neglect that has jeopardized public safety and cost the lives of innocent individuals.” – Senate Majority Leader Loretta Weinberg (D-37) in a letter of July 10, 2012, to NJ Department of Corrections Commissioner Gary M. Lanigan

After a lengthy investigation State Comptroller A. Matthew Boxer in June 2011 issued a report documenting “crucial weaknesses in state oversight of inmate halfway houses.” He made 28 recommendations to enhance DOC oversight. The report indicated “DOC’s response notes that it is working to implement the recommendations.” In June of this year (twelve months later) the NY Times published a series of three frightening articles which revealed that halfway houses were still plagued by “escapes, gang activity, sexual attacks, and rampant drug use.” Senator Weinberg’s conclusion: “Obviously, whatever changes were made have failed.”

In her letter to Commissioner Lanigan Senator Weinberg requested “full accounting by the DOC of its actions since June of last year to correct the problems identified by the comptroller and an explanation of why these actions failed.” Community Education Center (CEC) operates 70% of these facilities for inmates who are finishing their sentences and parolees who are re-entering society. The Times reported at one CEC site an inmate escaped in the process of being transported and murdered his girlfriend hours later. Another individual at the same facility murdered a resident being held on a motor vehicle violation.

The legislature has moved with speed to launch investigations to address this failure. The Assembly is planning an investigation tentatively in July. The Senate Legislative Oversight Committee chaired by Senator Robert Gordon (D-37) and vice-chaired by Senator Barbara Buono (D-18) has scheduled a hearing for July 26. Senator Gordon said, “Clearly, there is something going wrong. I believe the Legislature has an obligation to determine what the problem is and to develop solutions.”

More beyond the fold on problems and solutions for the upcoming investigations