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13 Dec 2018

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  • Posted on 13 Dec 2018

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    After Spike in Deaths, New Jersey Looks to Prevent Suicides in Jails

    New Jersey's Department of Corrections is rolling out a series of initiatives aimed at preventing suicides in county jails, weeks after a WNYC investigation into the jail system found an increasing number of deaths in custody.

    “One suicide is too many,” Acting Corrections Commissioner Marcus Hicks said in a statement. “These initiatives are designed to lead to improved outcomes. While the NJDOC does not have a role in the daily operations of county jails, the Department will remain vigilant in establishing suicide prevention standards that must be met by each county jail."

    Reporters Audrey Quinn and Matt Katz found the increase in deaths was largely driven by suicides tied to mental illness and drug addiction. By one count, New Jersey had the highest rate of deaths in custody of any large jail system in the country.

    Because jails face little state oversight, there's been a lack of accountability. Gov. Phil Murphy's administration is now amending corrections guidelines to make sure jails review each suicide and submit a report to the state.

    Under the NJDOC's new initiatives, the state will now conduct unannounced inspections. There will also be training on suicide prevention and the department will helps jails develop polices aimed at curbing deaths.

    The NJDOC will have to work in conjunction with the New Jersey County Jail Warden’s Association, which oversees the daily operation of county jails. Calls to the association's president, Eugene J. Caldwell, had gone unanswered as of Thursday evening. 

    The NJDOC released the following initiatives:

    • The NJDOC will conduct unannounced annual inspections of county facilities.
    • Each county will be required to attend an annual training session presented by the NJDOC, to include correctional best practices related to suicide prevention.
    • The NJDOC will provide technical assistance in policy development to address suicide prevention in county jails.
    • A recommendation will be put forth that county jails receive biennial training on suicide prevention from the National Institute on Corrections.
    • The New Jersey Administrative Code – specifically 10A:31 – will be amended to include a requirement for county jails to conduct a multi-discipline morbidity review within a specified timeframe of a suicide. A summary of that review must be provided to the NJDOC within a specified timeframe.
    • The NJDOC will conduct a review of the general facts of the suicide in the conduct of the requirements set forth by the New Jersey Administrative Code. A follow-up inspection of any relevant standards will be conducted and recommendations for remedial actions will be made, if needed.

    Murphy had previously said the issue was "deeply troubling" and vowed to fix the system "using any existing authority or, if need be, working with the Legislature to provide new authority.”


  • Posted on 13 Dec 2018

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    World's Largest Cooperative Apartment Complex Opens in the Bronx

    On December 11, 1968, New York City became home to the largest co-operative housing complex in the world, Co-op City.


  • Posted on 13 Dec 2018

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    Report: NJ Police Seize Millions in Cash from Residents with Little Oversight

    Civil liberties advocates are asking lawmakers in New Jersey to reform the way police seize the assets of people suspected of crimes. A report released this week by the state's American Civil Liberties Union chapter found there's little oversight of the practice known as civil asset forfeiture.

    If police believe cash or goods are linked to a crime, they can take them. The ACLU-NJ found that police took more than $5.5 million worth of cash. That's on top of property that ranged from cars and houses to a massage table and baseball cards. And police departments get to keep the goods, often using the proceeds for operating expenses.

    "That incentivizes them to take as much as possible, especially from folks who are least able to fight back," said Liza Weisberg, an attorney and fellow at ACLU-NJ who contributed to the report.

    The only way for residents to get their goods back is in court. The report examined civil forfeiture data from Jan. through May of 2016 and found 97 percent of the time people didn't challenge the forfeitures, even if they were never charged with a crime.

    "It's not because they don't have winning cases," said Weisberg. "But it's because in virtually every single case the value of the thing that the police officers took away is usually less than the cost of getting into the courtroom to try to get it back."

    Low-income communities and people of color are disproportionately affected by civil asset forfeitures, according to the organization's analysis. In Jersey City, for example, "black people were arrested for low-level offenses at a rate 9.6 times higher than that of white people."

    Top 10 Municipalities by Number of Seizures (Jan - May 2016)

    1. Jersey City: 346
    2. Newark: 175
    3. Paterson: 93
    4. Middle Township: 89
    5. Trenton: 79
    6. Toms River: 37
    7. East Orange: 32
    8. Camden: 31
    9. Elizabeth: 31
    10. Union City: 21

    The report found Hudson County, which oversees a number of police departments, including Jersey City, had the most cases in the state, with 453, followed by Essex County, with 293.  

    The Hudson County prosecutor did not respond to a request for comment. The Essex County prosecutor has not yet reviewed the report.
     
    "We will do so because we are always seeking to make improvements as part of our overall strategy to reduce crime in Essex County," said Katherine Carter, a spokeswoman for the Essex County prosecutor. "But, the fact that we are high on the list for civil forfeitures is not particularly surprising simply because of the sheer number of cases we handle. Annually, Essex County handles upwards of 25 percent of the state’s indictable offenses." 

    A bill requiring county prosecutors to submit a quarterly report on forfeitures to the state's Attorney General passed the State Senate earlier this year and is awaiting a vote in the State Assembly.


  • Posted on 12 Dec 2018

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    Why Chuck Schumer Is No Longer the Most Powerful Democrat in D.C.

    Tuesday's dramatic Oval Office showdown over border wall spending and a government shutdown showed just how much power has shifted in Washington after the 2018 midterms.

    Not just from Republican to Democrat, but also from Chuck to Nancy. Before the midterms, Democrats had more leverage in the Senate, since Republicans controlled 51 votes but needed 60 to get most bills through a filibuster.

    Now, with big wins in the House of Representatives, soon-to-be Majority Leader Nancy Pelosi is calling the shots. 

    WNYC Washington correspondent John O'Connor spoke with Richard Hake about why Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer is no longer the top dog Democrat in D.C.


  • Posted on 12 Dec 2018

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