TRENTON – Senator John A. Girgenti, Chairman of the Senate Law, Public Safety and Veterans Affairs Committee, today announced the panel would conduct a special hearing Feb. 3rd on the influence of gangs in state prisons following the January 1st disturbance involving inmates and corrections officers at Bayside State Prison in Leesburg.
Corrections Commissioner Devon Brown has agreed to testify before the committee about the Bayside incident and respond to questions about whether competing gangs within the entire statewide prison system are creating a “pervasive culture of violence,” Senator Girgenti said.
“We need to examine the influence of gangs, not just at Bayside, but throughout the entire system,” Senator Girgenti said. “Our corrections officers need adequate protection from violence in a safe working environment.”
The Senate Committee chairman said Troy B. Ferus, President of the New Jersey State Corrections Association, the union leader representing Bayside corrections officers, also will be invited to appear before the committee hearing, scheduled for 10 a.m. in Room 4 of the State House Annex.
According to published reports, more than two dozen corrections officers sustained injuries during the disturbance and 27 inmates have been transferred from Bayside to Trenton State Prison. State officials have said at least six inmates will be charged with assault.
Senator Stephen M. Sweeney, D-Cumberland, Salem and Gloucester, praised Senator Girgenti for calling the hearing to look into the conditions which led to the disturbance at Bayside.
“Senator Girgenti is doing the right thing by calling a hearing and getting the facts out into the open,” said Senator Sweeney. “We have a responsibility to ensure the safety of our professionals, who, on their good days, endure extremely tough working conditions.”
Senator Girgenti last year supported a bill which moved through his committee and was passed 38-0 by the Senate to create a “Gangland Security Task Force,” which, in part, would examine the intelligence gathering capabilities at state correctional facilities to determine their effectiveness in monitoring gang activity. The bill awaits action in the Assembly.
Senator Sweeney and Senator Nick Asselta, R-Cumberland, Cape May and Atlantic, had called for hearings on the New Year’s Day disturbance at Bayside. Both senators have many corrections officers from Bayside living in their legislative districts.