Tag Archive: prisons

Taking On the South Jersey Goliath

Whether you’re a disciple of South Jersey Democratic boss George Norcross, or just someone who is running for political office on the Democratic ticket, conventional wisdom says that you don’t get very far without kissing George’s ring. Even those people who are not part of his inner circle take pains not to piss him off if they hope to win an election here.

So challenging George’s brother Donald, who was handpicked to replace another Norcross acolyte who resigned under a cloud of scandal, is a hapless task, right?

Don’t tell that to Alex Law, a 24-year old systems analyst who has put his career on hold in order to challenge The (South Jersey) Donald.

Today, I sat down with Law to discuss his seemingly quixotic quest, his positions on key issues, and his plans for the campaign.

Town Halls – A Study in Contrasts

Governor Christie’s “Town Hall” meetings have fascinated the mainstream media with their bombast, fancy props, and security details consisting of State Police and men in dark suits wearing earpieces. The script is always the same – a daytime meeting making it difficult for working people to attend, the governor pontificating for a while and then taking off his coat to answer questions, and his relishing YouTube moments to bash Democrats, teachers, female legislators, or whoever his target happens to be that week.

By contrast, the Democrats’ Town Hall meetings are low key, with scant coverage by the press, and no fancy props. After all, while the Governor’s political rants are paid for by taxpayers, the Dem’s meetings are funded by the party.

Last night, Senate President Stephen Sweeney was introduced by Senator Fred Madden at a town hall meeting at Camden County College in Blackwood. The auditorium was full, but not overflowing. There were no long lines to get in, unobtrusive security from the campus police, and no hoards of mainstream press and TV cameras to bring the proceedings to the general public.

Sweeney only spoke for a few minutes before taking questions from the audience. While the main item on the agenda was his tax reform proposal, he took questions on a variety of topics. Blue Jersey was there to bring you the proceedings. (Unfortunately, we had technical problems with the campus audio feed. The audio is sub-par; listening with headphones for better clarity is recommended.)

Below the fold: some time markers for interesting questions and answers.

Deep Thought: How To Cut The Size of State Government

So, while doing something totally unrelated to Blue Jersey I was on the Department of Corrections website — strangely, they don’t have escape plans there — and saw this in their FAQ:

Q: Where can I get information about a career with the New Jersey Department of Corrections?

A: The NJDOC is the second-largest employer in state government. Approximately 10,000 employees are currently building rewarding careers with the department. To successfully carry out its mission, the NJDOC offers a wide variety of career opportunities in both administrative and operational areas. Additional information can be found in the “Careers in Corrections” section of this Web site.

If you want to cut the size of government, the second largest state government employer would be a great place to start!  Not saying we should reduce the number of guards, etc. to the point where they and inmates are not safe, but that we should look to reduce the number of inmates.

There’s an awful lot of people who only did something stupid or minor taking up space in our state prisons.  How about more court intervention programs?  Or decriminalize the possession of small amounts of pot and some other drugs?  I mean, we’re spending more than a Princeton tuition on keeping people in jail for smoking a joint.

So instead of taking health care and pensions away from state workers, let’s try to rationalize our government just a little.

Crime And Punishment In New Jersey

Recently, the special sentencing unit, formerly known as death row, has finally been dismantled after three years of old squirty being put out to pasture.

For the record, I am glad that the death penalty is no longer an option, NOT ONLY because I think killing is wrong, no matter what; AND that people of colour are disproportionately targeted, but because…it is not in the convict’s interest to live. Think about one Jesse Timmendequas, the man who brutally raped and murdered 7 year old Megan Kanka. He is quite possibly the most hated man in New Jersey’s correctional system. Had we put a needle in his arm and made him do the potassium chloride cha-cha, he would have shuffled off this mortal coil and not had to think about how everyone hates him. But since we granted “clemency” to him, he will spend the rest of his days locked up for most of the day knowing that nobody will ever love him again. Think about what that life is like?

But back on topic, this dismantling comes as the man who put ole’ squirty out to pasture was just recently replaced by a former tough-talking federal prosecutor (the fed gov loves its three needles). This puzzles me, as the abolition of capital punishment was extremely controversial and many conservatives as well as Democrats wanted the death penalty back, why wouldn’t Christie be all gung ho about restoring capital punishment. Maybe it could be its not politically expedient, maybe it could be he’s focused more on his Reaganomics, or maybe he’s actually is heeding the Catholic church’s advice on this issue.

But its a good sign that capital punishment is gone and is not coming back. We have joined Western Europe, Australia, New Zealand, Canada, and even some of Latin America in removing the death penalty as an option, and now it is possibly as settled as some of those countries.

Malone: ” Privatize Prisons” Is he nuts?

This is from various privatization news articles:

”   Malone also said he would like to see corrections facilities privatized, a move that has been made in other states.”

Does Joe Malone have any idea what he is proposing?  At a time when gangs are proliferating the idea of putting the Prison system under the control of $12/hour guards who could be offered deals to triple their salaries by bringing in drug and cell phone contraband is insane.

The prison system is staffed with both civilian and custody staff who have been trained in the control of violent inmates. There is a reason why  the state prison system has been relatively calm. It is due to the people who work in the system .

If Joe Malone is serious then he is not a very smart man. If he is just posturing or running test balloons for cost savings then he should act in a more responsible manner.

This irresponsible idea can get people hurt.  

No one cares that Gangs control Billion dollar prison system?

Early this week the State Commission of Investigation released a 96 page report of a  two year probe of the Department of Corrections and the gang problem in the prison system. What they found was upsetting and chilling. Despite huge successes by law enforcement  in getting gang members locked up and put in jail the gangs simply have used the prison system as a ” corporate headquarters” to meet and continue their crime enterprises.

The Billion Dollar Department of Corrections has failed.

What is more astonishing is that absolutely no one cares! This scathing report was issued and neither the Governor , Legislators, or even the Department has addressed the allegations.

My question is simple. Has everyone just given up in the battle against violent street gangs in this State?

The report is long and I have attached a link and a brief summary pulled from the report.

Since no one in government cares about reading it I thought maybe a concerned taxpayer or so on this site might find it interesting and upsetting.  


Brief summary from report:

The State Commission of Investigation has found that burgeoning numbers of gang affiliated

inmates today increasingly exploit systemic weaknesses to organize and thrive inside

prison walls.

They communicate widely with cohorts both inside and outside of prison via

cellular phones and other means, and they readily secure, use and deal in contraband, including

illegal narcotics. They carry out illicit financial transactions and launder money through an

official system of inmate accounts.

They extort fellow inmates and their families. They corrupt

corrections personnel, including custody officers and civilian staff. Together, these

circumstances enable them to nurture and advance violent criminal enterprises while

incarcerated, and their ability to operate in this fashion raises the specter of greater violence,

not just inside the prisons, but once they return to the outside world.

Sex Offender Unit Ordered Closed/ Who wants it?

This from the Star Ledger:

KEANRY — New Jersey will have to find a new place to house sexually violent predators currently being held in Hudson County.

An appeals court has given the state corrections department a year to move the offenders from the county correctional facility in Kearny, where they’ve been held for several years on a temporary basis.

The dispute between the county and state dates back to an executive order issued by former Gov. Christie Whitman in 2000.

Whitman ordered more than 100 offenders classified as sexually violent predators to be housed at Kearny while the state sought a permanent home.

But efforts to relocate the offenders have been defeated by strong local opposition.

Two years ago a huge battle occured in South Jersey as the Department of Corrections tried to sneak the sex offender unit into the largest Prison in the state which is located in Bridgeton. State Senators Sweeney and Van Drew, and Assemblyman Burzichelli successfully won out, but now a court order has said the unit has to  be closed and there is little room in the prison system , especailly since Riverfront State prison in Camden has closed , to absorb this unit.

This could be a real political headache for Democrats in Cumberland, Salem and Gloucester counties if Corrections Department officials ” dust off ” their old plan to move this unit down South.

No one wants it in their back yard and there is no money to purchase land and build a whole new unit .

If it is not absorbed into one of the 13 remaining prisons where will it go? Will your county take it????