Federal and New Jersey authorities are investigating whether officials at the Camden County, N.J., juvenile jail illegally detained teenagers to inflate the facility’s annual budget, reports the Philadelphia Inquirer. If the youths, many of whom were wearing electronic monitors at home while awaiting trial, were jailed inappropriately, the detention would violate their civil rights. The investigation is focused on a roundup in October of teens wearing electronic anklets, days before the annual jail census, which is used to calculate the juvenile facility’s state funding.
Mary Previte, director of the jail, is one of many officials who have complained publicly about overcrowding at the facility, which has a legal capacity of 37. In August 2003, it listed 131 detainees. Last month, an official said there were 50 to 60. State and federal agents became involved after the October sweep when a family court judge discovered that several teenagers he had ordered released before trial were detained in the county youth facility. About 80 teenagers were wearing anklets at the time of the sweep. The number detained could not be determined yesterday. It also was not known how many youths were in the facility when the census was taken.