Former governor to chair Essex County Civilian Task Force

ESSEX COUNTY, NJ — Former N.J. Gov. James McGreevey was appointed as chairman of the Essex County Civilian Task Force on Thursday, Feb. 27. McGreevey is the first appointment to the task force, which will work with the administration of the Essex County Correctional Facility to address systemic issues at the facility.

“We are pleased to announce Gov. McGreevey as chairman of the Civilian Task Force and honored that he has made himself available to serve in this volunteer role,” Essex County Executive Joseph DiVincenzo Jr. said in a press release from the county. “Jim has a solid record of helping inmates transition back into the community after they are released and has been a strong advocate for rights of those being held in our jails. With his leadership experience and knowledge of our criminal justice system, he is extremely qualified to lead our new task force.”

“Former Gov. McGreevy is an excellent choice to head the prison task force,” Freeholder President Brendan Gill said in the release. “This is an important position, which will set a precedent for this type of administration. He brings a wealth of experience and knowledge from the New Jersey Reentry Corporation and we anticipate a positive impact on future outcomes.”

The Civilian Task Force is autonomous of the county government. It will have the authority to inspect the Essex County Correctional Facility; interview corrections officers, inmates and detainees; and review issues and concerns. The intent of the task force is to provide transparency and accountability of the ECCF staff, to protect the “lives, health, safety and rights of all people confined at the ECCF” and to ensure the “conditions of their confinement are safe, sanitary, respectful and humane,” according to language in the ordinance that was adopted in December.

In November, the county appointed former federal Judge Jose Linares as executive director of the task force. In this capacity, Linares will collaborate with the county to nominate the other members, establish the bylaws of the task force and provide administrative support to the task force.

In the coming weeks, McGreevey, Linares, and representatives from the county administration and Board of Freeholders will interview candidates for positions on the task force. The nine-member volunteer board will comprise a representative from a recognized detainee advocacy group, a representative from a recognized inmate advocacy group, a member who is in good standing with the Criminal Defense Bar, a corrections expert, an individual who was formerly incarcerated, a social justice advocate, an expert in the medical field and one member of the public. All members and the executive director are nominated by the county executive with advice and consent of the freeholder board. Essex County solicited resumes from members of the public who were interested in serving on the task force; the deadline was Jan. 17.

McGreevey has been a staunch advocate of prison reentry programs and helping former inmates seek rehabilitation. He leads the NJ Reentry Corporation and has volunteered at Exodus Transitional Community at the Church of Living Hope in New York City and at Integrity House at the Hudson County Correctional Facility. McGreevey also served as the head of Jersey City’s Employment & Training Program. He is a former New Jersey governor, state assemblyman and Woodbridge mayor.