An inefficient design, a steady flow of state prisoners, and too many low-bail and short-term inmates contribute to an “extreme” overcrowding problem at the Camden County, N.J., Correctional Facility, says a federal study. The Philadelphia Inquirer says that the overcrowding, which has reached 140 percent capacity, makes attempts to classify or separate inmates dysfunctional.
The report was compiled by the National Institute of Corrections, part of the Justice Department. The county sought the study before the recent death of Joel Seidel, a slightly built, mentally ill inmate who was fatally beaten by Marvin Lister, a towering cellmate with a long history of violence while in custody.
The report called on the county to form a criminal justice coordinating committee to discuss a self-imposed cap on the jail population, even if it meant renting beds in other counties. It recommended that officials study more pretrial services and community correctional programs to reduce the number of low-bail and nonviolent inmates. It asks that the county consider building an off-site receiving and holding center to speed up the processing of inmates now detained less than a week.
Freeholder Joseph Ripa, the board’s liaison to the jail, said he had formed the recommended committee. The Camden County facility opened in 1988 to house 399; expansions pushed the capacity to 1,267. The jail reached its most overcrowded point on March 3, when it had 1,823 inmates. “The county is a relatively affluent county that can afford to invest money to save money and alleviate jail conditions,” the report says.