Assemblywoman VALERIE VAINIERI HUTTLE
District 37 (Bergen)
Makes permanent the “Commission to Protect New Jersey Inmates from Sexual Assault and Sexual Misconduct.”
CURRENT VERSION OF TEXT
A Joint Resolution making permanent the “Commission to Protect New Jersey Inmates from Sexual Assault and Sexual Misconduct” and supplementing Title 30 of the Revised Statutes.
Be It Resolved by the Senate and General Assembly of the State of New Jersey:
1. There is established the “Commission to Protect New Jersey Inmates from Sexual Assault and Sexual Misconduct.” The commission shall consist of the following 17 members:
a. four legislative members, who shall include two members of the Senate, who shall not be of same political party, and two members of the General Assembly, who shall not be of the same political party. The President of the Senate, the Speaker of the General Assembly, the Minority Leader of the Senate, and the Minority Leader of the General Assembly each shall appoint one legislative member;
b. four ex officio members or their designees, who shall include the following: the Commissioner of Corrections, the Attorney General, the Director of the Division on Women in the Department of Children and Families, and the Public Defender; and
c. nine public members appointed by the Governor, who shall include the following: a former inmate of the Edna Mahan Correctional Facility for Women; a victims’ rights advocate; a representative of an organization that defends civil rights or promotes social justice; a faculty member of a college or university located in this State with expertise in women’s issues; a representative of a collective bargaining unit representing correctional police officers; a representative of the New Jersey Coalition Against Sexual Assault; a person with expertise on the Prison Rape Elimination Act (PREA); a representative of a Quaker organization promoting lasting peace with justice; and a representative of an organization working for racial, social, and economic justice, and greater unity in the community.
2. a. The commission shall organize within 30 days of the appointment of its members. The commission shall elect a chairperson from among its members, and the chairperson shall select a secretary who need not be a member of the commission.
b. The public members shall be appointed for a three-year term, except that of the initial appointments, three public members shall serve for one year, three public members shall serve for two years, and three public members shall serve for three years. Vacancies in the membership of the commission shall be filled in the same manner provided for in the original appointments.
c. The members of the commission shall serve without compensation but may be reimbursed for travel and other miscellaneous expenses necessary to perform their duties, within the limits of funds made available to the commission for its purposes.
d. The commission may meet at the call of its chairperson at the times and in the places it may deem appropriate and necessary to fulfill its duties, and may conduct public hearings at any place it shall designate.
e. The commission may request at these hearings the appearance of officials of any State agency or political subdivision of the State and may solicit testimony of interested groups and the general public, including but not limited to officials, employees, contractors, volunteers, and former and current inmates of State correctional facilities.
f. The commission shall be entitled to call to its assistance and avail itself of the services of the employees of any State, county, or municipal department, board, bureau, commission, or agency as it may require and as may be available to it for its purposes, including a State university or college, and to employ stenographic and clerical assistance and incur traveling and other miscellaneous expenses necessary to perform its duties, within the limits of funds appropriated or otherwise made available to it for its purposes.
g. Seven members of the commission shall constitute a quorum for the transaction of business.
3. The commission shall examine issues affecting the safety and rights of inmates in State correctional facilities, including, but not limited to, matters concerning official misconduct convictions, pending criminal charges, and civil allegations by Edna Mahan inmates of sexual assault, sexual misconduct, and sexual harassment against correctional police officers, other staff members, contractors, and volunteers working in the facility. The commission specifically shall:
a. assess the degree of a facility’s compliance with the provisions of PREA, including the PREA audit process and whether these audits should be unannounced, and determine how current standards can be strengthened to further protect the inmates from sexual assault and sexual misconduct;
b. ascertain the current policy and procedures for investigating allegations of crimes and offenses by an inmate of sexual assault and sexual misconduct against correctional police officers, other staff members, contractors, and volunteers, including, but not limited to:
(1) the current means of reporting allegations of sexual assault or sexual misconduct, including complaints made via existing hotlines, and whether the allegations should be reported to a neutral third party that is not an employee of the Department of Corrections.
(2) the parameters governing the investigation of a complaint and how it is determined if an allegation is substantiated or unsubstantiated and whether the Special Investigations Division of the department can fairly and impartially conduct these investigations;
(3) whether the inmates’ due process rights are being protected during the investigation;
(4) how the facility prevents retaliation by a department employee against whom there is an allegation of sexual assault, sexual misconduct, or other criminal act and whether the employee is or should be suspended, either with or without pay, pending the completion of an investigation; and
(5) whether an inmate is receiving adequate services to deal with the trauma resulting from the sexual assault, sexual misconduct, or other criminal act of the staff;
c. explore the feasibility of increasing the female to male staff ratio in Edna Mahan and determine if the current policy governing cross gender searches and surveillance should include further protections for female inmates;
d. consider whether it would be appropriate to establish a citizen oversight board to monitor a facility;
e. research the availability of additional training and technical assistance from the PREA Research Center;
f. consider issues concerning the sexual victimization of inmates by correctional police officers, employees, contractors, and volunteers in this State’s correctional facilities for males; and
g. study any other issue it deems relevant to enhance the safety and security of the inmates in State correctional facilities.
4. The commission annually shall prepare and submit to the Governor and to the Legislature, pursuant to section 2 of P.L.1991, c.164 (C.52:14-19.1), a report containing its findings and recommendations, accompanied by any proposed legislation recommended for enactment. The annual reports shall be made available on the official Internet website of the Department of Corrections.
5. This joint resolution shall take effect upon the expiration of the Commission to Protect New Jersey Inmates from Sexual Assault and Sexual Misconduct established pursuant to P.L.2020, Joint Resolution No. 3.
This Assembly joint resolution makes permanent the “Commission to Protect New Jersey Inmates from Sexual Assault and Sexual Misconduct.”
P.L.2020, Joint Resolution No. 3 (SJR-79) established this commission on a temporary basis to examine issues affecting the safety and rights of inmates in State correctional facilities, such as official misconduct convictions, pending criminal charges, and civil allegations by Edna Mahan inmates of sexual assault, sexual misconduct, and sexual harassment against correctional police officers, other staff members, contractors, and volunteers working in the facility.
The temporary commission is required to issue a preliminary report of its findings and recommendations no later than six months after the organizational meeting of the commission. A final report, including legislative proposals, is due within one year of the organizational meeting of the temporary commission. But if the temporary commission concludes it needs more time to deliberate the issues, it may continue those deliberations for two periods of six months each. The temporary commission is to expire when it submits its final report.
This joint resolution makes this temporary commission permanent when the temporary commission expires. The permanent commission would be required to submit annual reports, including recommendations for legislation. The annual reports of the permanent commission are to be made available on the official Department of Corrections website.