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Six New Jersey Jail Guards Arrested for Assaulting Prisoners

On December 21, 2010, prosecutors charged six guards at New Jersey’s Essex County Correctional Facility with assaulting prisoners. The charges involve unprovoked attacks on three different prisoners in separate incidents. Four of the guards were also charged with falsifying records.

All of the assaults took place in 2010, with the first occurring on April 27. That incident involved an attack on 19-year-old prisoner Kirtrel Gadson, who was in jail for running over a woman while fleeing from police in a stolen car. He was beaten by guards William Rupp, 31, and Richard Amorosi, 25. Gadson refused medical care for the minor cuts and bruises he received. Prosecutors charged Rupp and Amorosi with the assault and with altering reports in an attempt to cover up the incident.

The second attack occurred less than a month later, on May 20. In that incident, Rupp, Amorosi, Sgt. John Conway, 33 (an 11-year jail veteran) and guards Mark Horst, 29, and Krysztof Golas, 36, assaulted prisoner James Craft. His injuries were so severe that he had to be taken to a local hospital. Craft’s beating took place shortly after Golas had completed his academy training.

The final assault occurred on September 3, 2010. Conway and jail guard Dennis Phelps, 35, were charged with attacking prisoner Brian Guarino, then filing a false report to conceal the incident.

Essex County Executive Joseph N. DiVincenzo, Jr. said he has “zero tolerance for guards who abuse their power. Things like this are going to happen and when they do we act immediately,” he stated. “This should send a strong message to the officers that we’re not going to take anything like this. If they do something wrong, they’re going to be punished.”`

This is the second time in six months that guards at the Essex County jail have been arrested. In July 2010, thirteen people were charged in a contraband ring that allowed prisoners to order cell phones and drugs which were smuggled into the facility by a guard. Rupp was one of the officers charged in that investigation, called Operation Jail Breach; also charged were guard Joseph Mastriani, Mastriani’s girlfriend Jill Watral, and Union County probation officer William John C. Smith.

Civil rights advocates say the arrests raise concerns about conditions at the jail. “It’s a very good thing that the prosecutor brought charges and we praise that action,” said Deborah Jacobs, director of the ACLU of New Jersey. “We do think that the underlying training, practices, and oversight need to be reviewed because these things should have never happened in the first place. Our office does get a lot of conditions-based complaints about Essex County Jail and we’ve been extremely concerned about the conditions at the jail.”

Sources: The Star-Ledger, Office of the Essex County Prosecutor press release

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