Public hearings scheduled to discuss medical issues at correctional facility

ESSEX COUNTY, NJ — The Essex County Correctional Facility Civilian Task Force has completed its training and has scheduled three public hearings concerning health and medical practices at the correctional facility. During the hearings, testimony about administrative practices and policy, incarcerated persons’ relevant experiences and expert best practices will be gathered.

“The Civilian Task Force is pleased to schedule our first series of hearings and begin collecting public input about the Essex County Correctional Facility. Ensuring the safety and security of those at the ECCF is our paramount concern and we look forward to get started on this important work,” said Civilian Task Force Chairperson James McGreevey, executive director and chairperson of the New Jersey Reentry Corporation and former governor of New Jersey.

Retired Chief Federal Judge Jose Linares, executive director of the Task Force, echoed McGreevey’s statement and indicated that he “is looking forward to working with the chairman and the members of the task force in this tremendously important project.”

The first hearing will be on Saturday, Oct. 3, from 10 a.m. to noon, at the New Jersey Reentry Corporation, 936 Bergen St. in Newark.

Subsequent hearings are scheduled for Thursday, Nov. 12, from 6 to 8 p.m., and Saturday, Dec. 5, from 10 a.m. to noon. Locations will be announced. These public hearings are planned as in-person events where social distancing guidelines will be followed and the wearing of face masks will be required.

Matters to be discussed will likely include grievance requests and policy, HIV care, mental and behavioral health, clinical/medical, medication-assisted treatment, chronic conditions, and health status. Testimony of recent releasees with experience interacting with the ECCF medical staff is of particular emphasis, especially those having experienced incarceration during the COVID-19 pandemic. A detailed agenda is forthcoming.

Those wishing to contact the Civilian Task Force, either to submit a complaint or get more information about the public hearing, should email jailtaskforce@admin.essexcountynj.org or call 973-877-8037. For more information, visit www.essexcountynj.org/corrections/ and click on the “Civilian Task Force” link.

The Civilian Task Force conducted two days of training and orientation, on Aug. 17 and Aug. 27. The sessions, led by McGreevey and Linares, included presentations about training procedures; safety and security protocols; inmates’ and detainees’ roles, responsibilities and rights; the differences between inmates and detainees; inmate and detainee grievance procedures; social services programs; the medical unit; food services; the Prison Rape Elimination Act; internal affairs; and confidentiality and the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act.

The intent of the nine-member 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. It will act independently of county government and have the authority to inspect the ECCF; interview corrections officers, inmates and detainees; and review systematic issues and concerns.

Members of the Task Force were nominated by Essex County Executive Joseph N. DiVincenzo Jr. and appointed by the Board of Chosen Freeholders in June through an established advice-and-consent procedure that is used to fill vacancies on all county boards and commissions.

COMMENTS