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Greenstein, Cruz-Perez Bills Addressing Mistreatment of Inmates Advances

TRENTON – Two bills sponsored by Senator Linda Greenstein and Senator Nilsa Cruz-Perez that would require increased training for correctional officers and require the Office of Victim-Witness Advocacy to provide services to certain inmates passed the Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee yesterday.

“Women should not be afraid to come forward if they’ve been abused or harassed by a corrections officer,” said Senator Greenstein (D-Mercer/Middlesex). “We must ensure that those incarcerated within our criminal justice system are treated with the same decency and respect as all other New Jerseyans.”

“Requiring these trainings will help make New Jersey prisons safer, and increase the professionalism of corrections officers,” said Senator Cruz-Perez (D-Camden/Gloucester). “Allowing for more professional development courses within our corrections facilities will benefit both officers and inmates.”

One bill, S-2532, would require the Commissioner of Corrections to institute a mandatory annual in-service training of at least 40 hours for all correctional police officers across the state. At least eight hours of the training would be dedicated to three specific topics, and the remaining 32 hours would be dedicated to topics selected by the training department of each facility from a list of approved courses.

The 40 hours of required training would be in addition to the firearms qualification and use-of-force training currently required of correctional officers.

Training on sexual assault, abuse, and harassment would be required, as would training on conditioning and manipulation awareness. The third required training would be on non-fraternization and undue familiarity, including the parameters of authorized contact with current or former inmates and their families.

The bill cleared committee yesterday by a vote of (12-0-1), and next heads to the full Senate for further consideration.

A second bill, S-2533, would require the State Office of Victim-Witness Advocacy to ensure the rights of female inmates who are the victims of crime. In consultation with the Commissioner of Corrections, the office would create standards to make sure the victims’ rights are enforced. The standards would include unannounced facility tours, and random surveys to identify inmates who are victims of sexual assault or misconduct which has not been reported. An inmate who is a victim would be informed of and provided with services offered by the office.

The bill cleared committee yesterday by a vote of (13-0) and next heads to the full Senate for further consideration.