Skip navigation
× You have 2 more free articles available this month. Subscribe today.

NJ Guards Threaten Walkout Over Vests

On July 31, 1997, New Jersey state prisons were locked down after a guard was fatally stabbed and angry union leaders told guards for the next shift not to report for work unless the state agreed to purchase body armor vests.

Bayside State Prison guard Fred Baker, 35, was stabbed once in the back with a handmade weapon similar to an ice pick while sitting at a desk in a common area leading to a courtyard. New Jersey state prisoner Steven Beverly, 38, was charged with murder, aggravated assault, and weapons charges. The killing was the first of a guard in the state prison system since 1972.

Within hours of the attack, the union representing 5,000 NJ prison guards urged members not to report to work for the day's second shift unless the state agreed to provide "knife-resistant protective vests."

Two hours later, NJ governor Christie Whitman ordered the immediate purchase of 6,500 vests. The cost was estimated at between $2.6 and $2.8 million.

According to Police Benevolent Association Local 105 president Thomas Little, if the vests had been ordered when the union demanded them following the non-fatal stabbing of a Riverfront State Prison guard in February, "we wouldn't be here today."

Beverly, the prisoner charged in July stabbing, reportedly argued with Baker some time before he stabbed him. Beverly was reported to have been angry because Baker threatened to move him or his cell-mate to a different cell.

The 6-foot-3-inch, 230-pound Baker was stabbed in the back while sitting at a desk. Presumably the "knife-resistant protective vest" would have deflected the fatal blow. However, what protection would the vest have offered if Beverly had struck at Baker's neck?

Corrections Digest

As a digital subscriber to Prison Legal News, you can access full text and downloads for this and other premium content.

Subscribe today

Already a subscriber? Login