New Jersey Improves Jail After Inmate Complaints

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Since the death of an inmate after a scuffle with corrections officers last spring, the Gloucester County, N.J., Jail, near Philadelphia, has found itself in an uncomfortable spotlight, the Philadelphia Inquirer reports.

A grand jury is investigating the inmate’s death. The county NAACP is looking into allegations of poor living conditions at the 180-bed facility. At least three inmates have been treated during the last three months for staph infections, which can spread quickly in jails.

The new director of the Corrections Department, Stanley Nunn, acknowledged that there had been problems at the 20-year-old jail. “There is room for significant improvement in this facility,” said Nunn, a 30-year veteran of the New Jersey Department of Corrections. Nunn was hired in May when control of the jail was shifted from the Sheriff’s Department to the county freeholders.

The Southern Gloucester Chapter of the NAACP has received letters from a half-dozen inmates complaining of cell overcrowding and filthy quarters. A common prisoner complaint is dirty showers; Nunn is spending $48,000 to improve them.

Inmates say they do not get blankets, sheets and toiletries. “At Gloucester County Jail, you’d be lucky to get a blanket and a sheet,” said Wayne Lester, 38, who said he was released on July 17 after serving three weeks for traffic violations. “They’ll say, ‘We’re out.’ There’s been times when they’ve been out of toilet paper.”

Nunn said inmates occasionally are asked to share toiletries and that “up until I started here, you didn’t get sheets.” Because some inmates had stopped up toilets with sheets in the past, they were not handed out to any of the prisoners, Nunn said. Last week, that policy changed.


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