New Jersey Officials Found Liable for Prisoner Abuse

A court-appointed fact finder has determined that officials from the New Jersey Department of Corrections are responsible for the abuse of nearly two dozen Bayside State Prison inmates which occurred in 1997. The opinion is significant in that it means that the state of New Jersey will be accountable for monetary damages awarded to the inmates.

The abuse claims originally arose during a month long lockdown of the medium security prison in 1997 following the stabbing of a guard by an inmate. According to the a Philadelphia Inquirer story, during the lockdown, inmates were prohibited from receiving visitors, were confined to their cells and were routinely interrogated and searched by a Special Operations Group (SOG) dressed in riot gear and armed with batons and mace. After the lockdown was over, numerous inmates reported instances of abuse to the Department of Corrections. Inmates reported being beaten, dragged, threatened by attack dogs and forced to sit in handcuffs for hours.

In a March 29 opinion handed down by former U.S. District Chief Judge John W. Bissel, it was held that the lockdown was “not in itself improper” but rather in its design and execution it violated the inmates’ Eight Amendment rights. Corrections Commissioner William Fauver, Former Deputy Commissioner Gary Hilton and Scott Faunce, former administrator at Bayside, were each held to bear “supervisory liability” for all proven cases of abuse arising from the lockdown.

Civil trials have already resulted in the award of monetary damages to 26 different inmates, and the recent decision by Judge Bissel would mean that the State of New Jersey would be directly responsible for paying these damage awards. Over the next several months, Judge Bissel plans to rule on approximately 30 more abuse claims. If damages are proven in these cases, the state will likewise be accountable, provided that the fact finder’s opinion is accepted by U.S. District Court Judge Robert B. Kugler, and is not reversed on appeal.

This important decision establishes that the state can be responsible for monetary damages where a state prison official was negligent in his or her supervision of guards. The New Jersey assault victim attorneys at Lependorf & Silverstein, P.C. have experience in litigating these types of injury, abuse and neglect claims. If you have been injured or harmed by state employees whose conduct has fallen below the reasonable standard of care, let the personal injury lawyers at the law firm of Lependorf & Silverstein, P.C. go to work for you today. For a free consultation, please call 609-240-0040 today.