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Hurricane Sandy Facilitates Mass Escape from New Jersey's Logan Hall

Hurricane Sandy and a lack of preparation or training for unusual weather helped prisoners at the notorious Logan Hall halfway house to run rampant, including a mass escape of fifteen prisoners.

Although designated a "halfway house," Logan Hall, which is operated by Community Education Centers (CEC), a private corporation based in New Jersey, is designed and run more like a jail. Prisoners are locked into small rooms and the facility is surrounded by tall fences topped with razor wire. The doors and gates are electrically-operated. When the power failed as a result of Hurricane Sandy on October 29, 2012, they all clicked open.

The opened doors allowed dozens of the 547 Logan Hall residents to get into the hallways. Once there, they destroyed furniture and vending machines, tore signs with messages such as "Stop Lying" and "Admit When You Are Wrong" off the walls and threatened the guards and female residents.

The CEC workers on duty were unable to organize an effective response to the mayhem. The workers are poorly paid, trained and equipped. None of them knew how to start the backup generator. None even had a flashlight.

One supervisor confronted a group of male residents wearing improvised face masks who were headed toward the rear of the building where the females are housed. While the supervisor kept the men at bay, other staff members moved the female residents to a reception area that could be locked manually. There they remained until police arrived.

Thwarted in their efforts to get to the women, then masked men grabbed chairs and blankets to use in scaling the fence and left Logan Hall via the unlocked front door. They quickly discovered that no scaling was required. The front fence gate was open.

Of the 15 men who escaped, 6 were recaptured within three days, another six were caught between three and six days after the escape, two eluded authorities for about a week with only one remaining free after two weeks.

Governor Chris Christie, who has been a major supporter of CEC, was strangely silent about the events at Logan Hall. Assemblyman Charles Mainor (D-Hudson Co.), who is chairman of the Law and Public Safety Committee, was troubled by the administration's failure to disclose the event.

"I did not know. Of course, they would not want me to know," said Mainor, referring to Christie's strong support for CEC and William J. Palatucci, a senior CEC executive who is Christie's close friend and advisor.

Fifty officers from four law enforcement agencies, including the Essex County Sheriff's Department, Essex County Correctional Department, Newark Police Department and New Jersey Parole Board responded to the events at Logan Hall. Newark Mayor Cory A. Booker said it was "obviously a serious event." Joe Amato, president of the Essex County guards union and an opponent of privately-operated halfway houses took it a step farther.

"The place was turned upside down," said Amato. "The inmates basically rioted."

Amato's take may be a bit of an exaggeration since no one was injured during the Logan Hall event. But it is probably not an exaggeration to agree with one of the responding law enforcement officers who, on the condition of anonymity, said that there where harrowing moments when the disturbance at Logan Hall could have spiraled out of control.

Since none of the state or county-run jails and prisons in New Jersey experienced any disturbances during Hurricane Sandy, it is clear that privately-run halfway houses are a bad idea.

Source: New York Times

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