I was driving home from a legal seminar in Northern Virginia today when I received and E-Mail message from Sergeant Steve Brzdek, President of The New Jersey Law Enforcement Supervisors Association, the collective bargaining unit that represents all New Jersey State Supervisory Law Enforcement Personnel. The E-mail informed me that a Federal Corrections Officer was brutally murdered by two inmates at the Atwater US Penitentiary located in Merced County, California. A statement from the prison said Corrections Officer Jose Rivera, 22, of Chowchilla, California was stabbed to death by two inmates with "homemade weapons" in a housing unit. The complete news article can be found in the Merced Sun Star

Undoubtedly speaking on behalf of all law enforcement personnel and public safety officers within the state of New Jersey, our thoughts and prayers go out to Jose Rivera and his family.

Anytime a member of the law enforcement community is taken from us during a tour of duty we must pause to reflect on this tragic loss of life, and ask ourselves, what can we do better within the law enforcement community to prevent this from happening in the future? Institutional security policies in penal institutions are always being reviewed, revamped, and retooled. This is especially true in light of inmates now obtaining illegal access to mobile telecommunication technology that turns an already dangerous prison into a workplace that can be booby trapped and filled with ambushes.

I have represented New Jersey Corrections Officers for many years in New Jersey Workers Compensation Court. Anyone familiar with the profession understands and is aware that these men and women are routinely injured during physical struggles and assaults perpetrated by inmates I have helped Corrections Officers suffering from  orthopedic injuries normally reserved for football players. I have also seen these brave men and women suffer from post traumatic stress syndrome similar to many of our soldiers and Marines coming home from the battles raging in Iraq and Afghanistan. Corrections Officers are also often inflicted with MRSA and Staff Infections, and exposed to blood with the HIV Virus and Hepatitis. In my opinion, there is no position of employment in America that is more dangerous than that of a Corrections Officer.

With that being said, I will devote my next several blog posts to explaining the New Jersey Workers Compensation System. The system within the state of New Jersey that has been established to assist and compensate the injured worker. The New Jersey Department of Labor and Workforce Development describes the Workers Compensation system as a “no fault” insurance program that provides the following benefits to employees who suffer job-related injuries or illnesses:

  • Medical Benefits
  • Temporary Total Benefits
  •  Permanent Partial Benefits
  •  Permanent Total Benefits; and
  • Death Benefits to dependants of workers who have died as a result of   their employment.

However explanation of these benefits is for another day and another time. Tonight, we should remember and pray for Corrections Officer Jose Rivera and his family. We should also humbly say thank you to all of the men and women who risk their lives every day to protect the public safety.