Comment: After three months of retirement from E.C.I., I continue to hear of the terrible conditions occurring daily at that facility from those who are still employed there.For this reason I feel compelled to express my concern on behalf of those officers who can not because of fear of retaliation.
For twenty four and a half years I was employed at E.C.I. During that time I made some very good friends along the way. It saddens me as each day passes the conditions worsen. As each week pass more officer’s leave. There are several issues that have caused this exodus. Number one is the unsafe conditions caused by the lack of staffing. As on previous occasions D.O.C. has told the media that there are no significant shortage of staff. I am very certain there is a deficit of between 120 to 130 officers. It has been easy for the state to spew forth the numbers needed in an attempt to quell any concerns by the public. This has usually been done by the e limitation of P.I.N.’s (personal identification number)as employees leave.
The direct effect of short staffing is safety. By it’s definition this job is a dangerous profession even when staffing is not a concern. As officers leave, the real possibility of assault grows expeditiously for them as well as inmates. The predatory inmate feels more secure to continue their criminal activities when there is a limited deterrent.
Another major concern is the growing amount of times when officers are drafted for an additional eight hours to total sixteen in a 24 hour period. This phenomena is now occurring for every shift, every day all week long with no end in sight. Some officer’s have been drafted as many as three times in one week.
How could these conditions be considered safe by any standard? D.O.C. says it’s number one goal is safety for the public, officers and the inmate population. After the last two years under Governor Hogan the situation has no positive end in sight. According to The Somerset County Times from earlier this June only 1 graduated the academy as a custody officer. Recently however, I’ve been told eight have been hired for the academy.
Morale, that’s a complete joke! There is none. It is almost unanimous from most employed there that D.O.C. care nothing what so ever for the current situation as well as that of the future. When morale is dead, the situation multiplies several fold. Since there is the need for drafts and overtime, some of the inmate’s activities have been curtailed or modified because of the shortage. The three main concerns as a rule for inmates is, food, recreation and visits. If any one of the before mentioned are perceived as unwarranted punishment for the population there is a greater possibility of a organized reaction. This happened June 21, when parts of two compounds refused to return to their cells. This was not a spontaneous event by the inmates. It was planned! Administration seemed to be caught off guard to the amount of coordination by the inmates .From my understanding it was directly as a result of the modified rec. This was a warning by the inmates! Someone needs to take this seriously.
The atmosphere at E.C.I. for it’s employees is ruled by intimidation by D.O.C. headquarters. These conditions did not occur recently,but over a period of time beginning with the current appointees for D.O.C. leadership. The supervision is told to tow an almost impossible line while at the same time put on a leash of intimidation from headquarters. My opinion is that Warden Foxwell has done the best he can do, but is undercut by headquarters.
Perhaps, it is only the families and loved ones who truly care about the outcome of what might happen if a serious attempt is made to repair the damage incurred under the Hogan Administration. It confounds me as to why so many of the elected voices have remained silent, even though many officers practically begged for someone to look into the situation as it steadily deteriorated. The only legislator that has made several attempts to find out what was going on at E.C.I., are Senator Mathias . He has been involved for the past two years in an attempt to help ECI. I had several conversations with Senator Mathias’s secretary. She stated no one in the Hogan administration seemed to give it much importance or gave some song and dance when asked questions.
So in closing I hope the Governor and DOC would take the situation serious enough to fix. It’s as simple as this; it’s not a matter of if, but a matter of when bad things happen.