In response to charges of physical violence by a youth prison guard against an incarcerated young person, the New Jersey Institute for Social Justice condemned the abuse and renewed its call for the closure of New Jersey’s three youth prisons: Jamesburg, Hayes and the Juvenile Medium Security Facility (JMSF), where the incident occurred.
“Violence against incarcerated youth is abhorrent and unacceptable,” stated Yannick Wood, Director of the Criminal Justice Reform Program at the Institute. “It reflects the broken condition of New Jersey’s overfunded and antiquated youth prisons, which are plagued by structural racism, emotional harm and even physical violence.”
According to the Office of the Attorney General, “On Oct. 25, 2020, Lt. [Edward] Day and other correctional police officers were escorting a 16-year-old juvenile resident from his room to another location in the facility, with his arms handcuffed behind his back, when Day, without apparent cause or justification, allegedly grabbed the victim’s ankle from behind, pulled his leg back, and pushed him face forward onto the ground. Day then allegedly grabbed hold of the juvenile’s handcuffed wrists and twisted and broke one of them.”
Allegations of this charge were not made public for 318 days after the incident.
“There must be improved transparency regarding incidents of misconduct, abuse and violence in our prison system,” added Wood. “There may be other events that have occurred that we don’t know about. We need transparency to disrupt any pattern of misconduct.”
In 2018, New Jersey ordered that Jamesburg and Hayes youth prisons be closed. To date, they remain open, along with JMSF.
In August of this year, Lt. Gov. Sheila Oliver signed into law A4663/S2924, which will funnel $8.4 million from youth incarceration into much-needed and proven community-support systems like restorative justice programs that rehabilitate youth instead of further harming them by incarcerating them.
“As the whole country is focused on alternatives to over-policing and over-incarcerating communities of color, it is time now for New Jersey to finally pass the New Jersey Youth Justice Transformation Act (A710/S315), a bill to close all three of its youth prisons and further invest in our kids’ success in their communities instead of currently investing over $445,000 annually per child to lock them up,” added Wood.
This latest incident follows widely reported allegations of misconduct in adult prisons including indictments of two guards for allegedly assaulting an inmate at South Woods State Prison and charges against 10 guards at Edna Mahan Women’s Correctional Facility for assault allegations and additional allegations of sexual assault.
“These attacks against our incarcerated youth, women and men represent a prison culture of violence and impunity,” said Wood. “All these alleged attacks took place with groups of officers present, suggesting that these actions were met with some level of tolerance and protection.”