We are being sued for violating a 17 year old's civil rights.
Although the county may have imposed a cap on their juvenile detention facility to avoid overcrowding since the death of a juvenile in 2003, and the county will be building a new facility 'one of these days,' the taxpayers need to be aware of the fact that the detention center has been a ticking time bomb since 1998 - for 8 years!!! And all warnings and demands from the state went ignored by the county during this time.
This is all well documented. I have numerous letters, dating as far back as 1998, going between the state and the county regarding their dissatisfaction with the center and their "demands" that reforms be put into action. The county ignored the state and Edward Sinclair Jr. hanged himself on May 10, 2003 while being detained in an unsafe jail cell.
His mother, Yolanda Padilla, is holding the state and the county accountable for his death by suing for violations of her son's civil rights and is scheduled to go to court on July 15. What I'd like to know is who is holding the county and state accountable for the hundreds if not thousands of juveniles which were held under the same deplorable and unsafe conditions that Sinclair was held under and that were reported in the States Child Advocates Report? [Click here for copy of report.] They all had their civil rights violated and should all be suing 'us'. Yes people they are suing 'us' because 'we' pay the bills. 'We' also allowed these same freeholders to be reelected year, after year, after year....
Since it is very apparant that the all-Democrat freeholder board can't be held accountable one would think there would be a higher authority to step in. The spin coming from the state is that there will hopefully be some legislative change in the future, but as it stands right now, the state's Juvenile Justice Commission only has authority to place a cap on a facility or shut a facility down. The commission had placed caps on the county and they were ignored right up until the time of Sinclair's death and possibly beyond. There was never a threat of shutting the facility down. The county is in absolute control of this facility therefore they are absolutely responsible for it.
The corrections officers' union also filed complaints with the county which went ignored: As reported in the Star-Ledger 5/13/03: "State probes teen suicide at detention center" by Robert Miseck: "A lawyer for Council 8 representing 30 officers at the detention center said the union had filed numerous complaints with the county, warning that "something like this would happen because of the overcrowding and under staffing" at the facility. 'For the last couple of months the union has been documenting and complaining about the conditions there, but I don't think they really addressed our concerns,' said attorney Michael Bukosky."
The county had made promises to turn the center around for eight years and is still making promises and they can make promises from now till armageddon and no one will hold them responsible for the treatment of juveniles under their care. No one cares. Including the Union County Prosecutor's Office, who recently refused to investigate alleged abuse at the center, and the State's Attorney General or the Governors office.
As far as promises being broken and warnings going unheeded consider that county resolution #294-2003 clearly states that a cap on the detention center's population was in place and the county contracted with Morris County to take the overflow as of 4/1/03 yet Sinclair was put in an overcrowded facility on 5/10/03, in a cell that was deemed unsafe by the state, when he hanged himself.
Countless other juveniles were put in this same cell. The child advocates report states that "the county set the stage for Sinclair's death." They also stated that the county had a disregard for basic human rights and held "juveniles" three to four to a cell for 18 - 20 hours a day in which they ate and slept in 8 x 10 cockroach-infested cells. Sinclair hanged himself on an exposed sprinkler head which was cited as a violation and hazard by the state in a report sent to the county seventeen (17) months prior to his death. The report went ignored.
In November of 2000, six years ago, the freeholder board, after spending more than $2 Million of taxpayers money, voluntarily scrapped it's plans to construct a new JV center. The board was 5-4 at the time and the Republicans wanted to build a new center and the Democrats voted against it. At that time board chairman Dan Sullivan, cited a declining population at the current facility, yet according to then Assistant Prosecutor Deborah White the daily count was 45-50 in a center with a capacity intended for 38. Then Freeholder Lewis Mingo talked about not wanting to waste money. The cost at the time was projected to be $20 million, and the cost of the current project is roughly $40 million.
Of course powerbroker Charlotte DeFilippo, who is the Union County Democrat chairwoman, will be handling the bonding for the project through the taxpayer funded Union County Improvement Authority. The county has built several other self serving buildings during this time frame. Including a new building for the prosecutor's office on a site that was originally slated to be the new juvenile detention center. Along with all the new county buildings the county completed a $1.8 Million decorative addition to their administration building which is directly across the street from the Juvenile Detention center housed above their garage.
No employee or elected official of the state or the county has been held accountable for the condition of this facility or the treatment of juveniles. No one has been written up, reprimanded, fined or suspended. A letter dated 12/3/03 from Howard Beyer, Executive Director of the Juvenile Justice Commission, to Frank Guzo, Director of the Union County facility, states "As we proceeded to your office we were assured by you that a new detention Superintendent would be coming on board by December 1, 2003. The individual would initially begin in the Assistant Superintendent position, would report directly to you and would eventually be promoted to Superintendent. It was strongly suggested that the new individual begin as Superintendent so that the necessary corrective action for the residents and staff could commence, as the 'heir apparent' was qualified and experienced in detention management."
As far as I'm aware this Assistant Superintendent has not been promoted as of yet and the same management team is in place.
The county was supposed to break ground in March 2005 for the new facility and it has been postponed yet again. Does it matter if they start today? It is eight years past due and the clock is still ticking with juveniles being held in hell-like conditions. Will a new facility be the be-all and end-all to the county of Union's disregard for basic human rights? How do you hold the arrogant all-Democrat freeholder board, who have absolute power, accountable for their actions which cause harm to people. How do we stop the taxpayers from bleeding money through countless lawsuits due to the freeholders' arrogance, incompetence and mismanagement?
We can stop them from being reelected year after year after year...