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New Jersey Sex Offenders Must Be Protected and Segregated During Transports

A New Jersey federal district court has issued a preliminary injunction requiring prison officials at the Adult Diagnostic and Treatment Center in Avenel, New Jersey (ADTC) to protect and segregate ADTC prisoners when transporting them to medical appointments or court appearances.

This class action suit was brought by ADTC prisoners, alleging violations of their First, Eighth and Fourteenth Amendment rights. ADTC is a prison for the treatment of prisoners who have been convicted of sexual offenses and found to be compulsive and repetitive in their offending behavior. As such, they are the most despised and reviled prisoners in the prison system, causing them to be harassed and physically assaulted by other state prisoners whenever they are exposed to those prisoners, such as when they are transported to and detained in other prisons.

An example cited by the Court was the assault of ADTC prisoner Paul Cornwell, who was transported from ADTC to the New Jersey State Prison for treatment of a herniated disc. After receiving treatment, he was transported to the Garden State Correctional Facility, where he was placed in a holding cell with another ADTC prisoner and about twelve other state prisoners for about three hours.

Two guards stood outside the Plexiglas window to observe the events that followed. After the prisoners learned they had ADTC prisoners amongst them, they began asking questions. ?What did you do, rape a little girl?? Cornwell was asked. After accusing him and yelling at Cornwell, the prisoner sat next to Cornwell and punched him in the chest.

The prisoner then demanded Cornwell give up his gold chain and cross.
When he refused, he offered Cornwell an apology, holding out his hand.
After Cornwell accepted the outstretched hand, the prisoner pulled Cornwell forward, punching him in the left temple. Cornwell fell to the floor and was knocked unconscious. He was assaulted while unconscious with the two guards watching. In fact, the guards did not intercede until 12 minutes after the incident began. Cornwell?s injuries were so serious he spent 55 days in the hospital.

The Court noted several instances of physical and verbal abuse of ADTC prisoners while on transport vans with other state prisoners. As such, the Court held that prison officials? practice of identifying ADTC prisoners as sex offenders and refusing to separate them from other state prisoners created an unreasonable risk that they would be assaulted, and prevented them from seeking medical care because prisoners were refusing to be transported. Thus, the plaintiffs had a high likelihood of success.

The Court also found there was a likelihood of irreparable injury to ADTC prisoners. The Court said the placing of ADTC prisoners in shackles and supervising them does not prevent other state prisoners next to or directly behind them from grabbing or hitting ADTC prisoners. Moreover, a guard outside a cell cannot prevent an assault.

The Court?s order required guards not to reveal to other prisoners that ADTC prisoners are from ADTC. It also enjoined them from confining ADTC prisoners in a vehicle or cell where other state prisoners have physical access to the ADTC prisoners. Next, the Court required guards to halt all verbal and physical assaults on ADTC prisoners. Finally, the Court ordered prison officials to investigate and promptly report any violence committed against ADTC prisoners.

The Court held that all provisions of its order imposed no harm on the defendants because it required them to comply with their own procedures, or were minimal. It was in the public?s interest to issue an injunction.

The latest injunction was issued June 20, 2006; the Court had previously entered a similar injunction on March 16, 2006. The orders are unpublished but are available on PLN?s website. See: Riley v. Brown, USDC NJ, Case No. 06-0331 (DRD), 2006 WL 1722622; the March 16, 2006 injunction is available at 2006 WL 842437.

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Related legal cases

Riley v. Brown

Riley v. Brown