Key South Jersey Lawmakers: No Civilly Committed Sexual Predators

TRENTON – Key South Jersey lawmakers today applauded the Corzine Administration for agreeing not to place more than 350 civilly committed sexual predators on the grounds of South Woods State Prison in Bridgeton.

“I want to thank the members of the Corzine Administration who heard our voices and responded to the petitions of thousands of concerned residents of Cumberland County,” said Senate Majority Leader Stephen M. Sweeney, D-3rd District. “When the forces of government respond to the valid concerns of the people, everyone wins.”

TRENTON – Key South Jersey lawmakers today applauded the Corzine Administration for agreeing not to place more than 350 civilly committed sexual predators on the grounds of South Woods State Prison in Bridgeton.

“I want to thank the members of the Corzine Administration who heard our voices and responded to the petitions of thousands of concerned residents of Cumberland County,” said Senate Majority Leader Stephen M. Sweeney, D-3rd District. “When the forces of government respond to the valid concerns of the people, everyone wins.”

Senator Jeff Van Drew, D-1st District, said the decision to house civilly committed sexual predators elsewhere is “a victory for all those who stepped forward to express their hopes that Cumberland County will continue its progression as a safe, family-oriented, residential and recreational region.”

Senators Sweeney and Van Drew were joined by Assemblymen John J. Burzichelli and Douglas H. Fisher, both D-3rd District, and Assemblymen Nelson Albano and Matthew Milam, both D-1st District, in praising the decision.

“What is important is that people spoke out and were heard about Cumberland County already doing more than its fair share of the responsibility for housing members of the corrections community,” said Assemblyman Burzichelli.

“A good case was made that Cumberland County, with two state prisons and a federal corrections facility accounted for well over 25 percent of the State’s corrections population,” said Assemblyman Fisher.

Assemblyman Albano said the decision by the State to place the civilly committed sexual predators elsewhere “provides Cumberland County with a positive marketing tool” as it moves to attract long-term economic development, jobs and housing.

“Cumberland County is a beautiful place to live, to work and to raise a family,” Assemblyman Albano said. “We can now move forward without the stigma of being the State’s county corrections capital.”

Assemblyman Milam also praised the strong turnout of public support, both through the petition drive which resulted in more than 3,500 signatures against the location of civilly committed sexual predators and the various outpourings of residents at public meetings where opposition was expressed.

“This was an example of people-power at its best,” Assemblyman Milam said. “The message was clear from the time the proposal first surfaced – we’re doing our share already so don’t dump sexual predators in our backyards.”

Senator Sweeney singled out Bridgeton Mayor Jim Begley for his persistence in pointing out the burden the project would impose on Bridgeton and its surrounding areas.

“The people of Bridgeton can be rightfully proud of their Mayor because Jim Begley never gave up,” said Senator Sweeney who also praised the work done by Cumberland County Freeholder Director Lou Magazzu who, in turn, said the decision bodes well for the future of Cumberland County.

“Our pitch now to business and commercial interests can focus on our safe streets, our good schools and our open space,” he said.

South Woods State Prison emerged last year as a prime possibility for consolidating several locations for housing civilly committed sexual predators whose sentences have been served, but who are deemed by the judicial system as too dangerous to be given their freedom.

The population of civilly committed sexual predators currently are kept in facilities in Woodbridge Township and in Kearny. After Senator Sweeney last year opposed the possible construction of a separate facility at South Woods just for the predators, a groundswell of local opposition erupted, culminating last week in an accord with the Governor’s Office to abandon Cumberland County as a site option.

“I’ve always favored vertical expansion of the existing facilities as preferable to building a whole new unit near schools and residential communities,” Senator Sweeney. “Again, we’d like to praise the Governor and his staff for listening to our point of view and acting accordingly.”

#