ASSEMBLY, No. 3777

STATE OF NEW JERSEY

219th LEGISLATURE

INTRODUCED MARCH 16, 2020

 


 

Sponsored by:

Assemblyman† RONALD S. DANCER

District 12 (Burlington, Middlesex, Monmouth and Ocean)

Assemblywoman† VALERIE VAINIERI HUTTLE

District 37 (Bergen)

 

 

 

 

SYNOPSIS

†††† Establishes security standards for judicial hearings at mental health facilities.

CURRENT VERSION OF TEXT

†††† As introduced.

††


An Act concerning court hearings and mental health facilities and supplementing P.L.1987, c.116 (C.30:4-27.1 et seq.).

 

†††† Be It Enacted by the Senate and General Assembly of the State of New Jersey:

 

†††† 1.††† a. A court hearing conducted within a short-term care facility, psychiatric facility, special psychiatric hospital or other similar facility shall be conducted in a designated hearing room. The room shall not contain objects which if thrown may cause serious injury, and shall include:

†††† (1)†† A buffer distance between the judge and the patient;

†††† (2)†† Chairs and tables secured to the floor, if feasible;

†††† (3)†† An escape route for judges and staff to a secure area; and

†††† (4)†† A duress alarm with dedicated response personnel.

†††† b.††† In addition to the designated hearing room required by subsection a. of this section, a short-term care facility, psychiatric facility, special psychiatric hospital, or other similar facility in which court hearings are conducted shall have:

†††† (1)†† A waiting area for patients, which does not interfere with escape routes for judges and staff, does not allow a patient to cause disruption in the hearing room, and provides a safe area for conferences between the patient and his attorney;

†††† (2)†† Dedicated clinical and security personnel from the hospital who are trained concerning the use of force on patients and can respond in an emergency; and

†††† (3)†† A safe waiting area for visitors.

†††† c.†††† A person attending or participating in a court hearing conducted within a short-term care facility, psychiatric facility, special psychiatric hospital, or other similar facility shall be subject to a risk assessment and examination by a guard with a hand-held or walk-through metal detector, and may have their belongings searched.

†††† d.††† Nothing in this section shall be construed to prohibit the establishment of security requirements or procedures in excess of those required by this section.

 

†††† 2.††† The commissioner shall establish rules and regulations to effectuate the purposes of this act.

 

†††† 3.††† This act shall take effect on the first day of the eleventh month following enactment.

 

 

STATEMENT

 

†††† This bill would establish security standards for court hearings held at mental health facilities.† Current statutory law does not mandate security requirements for court hearings conducted at mental health facilities.

†††† The bill requires court hearings conducted within a short-term care facility, psychiatric facility, special psychiatric hospital or other similar facility to be conducted in a designated hearing room, which shall not contain objects that if thrown may cause serious injury.† The bill requires the hearing room to have:

        A buffer distance between the judge and the patient;

        Chairs and tables secured to the floor, if feasible;

        An escape route for judges and staff to a secure area; and

        A duress alarm with dedicated response personnel.

†††† In addition, the bill requires a short-term care facility, psychiatric facility, special psychiatric hospital, or other similar facility in which court hearings are conducted to also have:

        A waiting area for patients, which does not interfere with escape routes for judges and staff, does not allow a patient to cause disruption in the hearing room, and provides a safe area for conferences between the patient and his attorney;

        Dedicated clinical and security personnel from the hospital who are trained concerning the use of force on patients and can respond in an emergency; and

        A safe waiting area for visitors.

†††† The bill provides that a person attending or participating in a court hearing conducted within a short-term care facility, psychiatric facility, special psychiatric hospital, or other similar facility shall be subject to a risk assessment and examination by a guard with a hand-held or walk-through metal detector, and may have their belongings searched.

†††† Finally, the bill requires the Commissioner of the Department of Human Services to establish rules and regulations to effectuate the billís purposes and provides that nothing in the bill prohibits the establishment of security requirements or procedures in excess of those required by the bill.

†††† At several mental health facilities throughout the State, current recommended Administrative Office of the Courts standards of courtroom security for civil commitment hearings have not been followed, thereby placing judges, personnel, attorneys, and the public at risk of injury.