Under pressure from a federal judge who called overcrowding and poor conditions at the Passaic County, N.J., Jail “shameful,” officials have reduced the number of federal inmates there by 25 percent and begun a renovation effort, the Newark Star-Ledger reports. The facility, once featured on the television show “Cops,” has had a reputation as the state’s toughest jail and been the subject of complaints by inmates and defense attorneys.
The reduction started in October after U.S. District Judge Katharine Hayden began cutting the prison terms of inmates being housed there. Inmates complained of putrid air, sewage backups and extreme temperatures. Officials acknowledged a deteriorating structure that has been permitted to violate state codes for decades through temporary waivers. The population of the half-century old jail in Paterson, which was built to hold 896 inmates, exceeded 2000. Among those, 400 were federal inmates. Because New Jersey does not have a federal detention center, it relies on county jails to hold federal inmates awaiting trial. Federal officials have sent new prisoners to Hudson County and a federal detention center in Philadelphia. The number of federal inmates in Passaic has dropped to 300. U.S. Marshal James Plousis said Hayden’s ruling underscores New Jersey’s need for its own detention center for 700 federal inmates.