As report by NJ.com, officials from the State’s Corrections Officer’s union say prison administrators reneged on an agreement to relocate inmates who staged a protest following the return of an officer injured in an attack earlier this month. The turmoil comes after an August 3 incident in which six correction officers were injured, said Brian Renshaw, the president of PBA Local 105, the State Corrections Officers’ Union.
Renshaw and other union members said that administrators at Northern State Prison had agreed to their request to move the inmates, but later discovered that was not the case. Renshaw declined to identify the inmates or the officers involved, but said the August 3 scuffle started when one of his members attempted to clear a group of Muslim inmates who were conducting a prayer service in an unauthorized area. An altercation ensued involving four inmates and six corrections officers were hospitalized with injuries ranging from wounds to their faces to swollen ligaments, he said. It was unclear whether the inmates had sustained any injuries.
The inmates remains under investigation, according to a spokesman for the State Department of Corrections, who declined to comment further. One of the officers involved was returning to his post after being medically cleared of his injuries when a group of inmates began staging a demonstration demanding the officer be reassigned elsewhere, Renshaw said. The inmates refused food and disobeyed orders that they leave their cells as part of a group demonstration, according Renshaw and other officials from the union, who claim prison officials complied with the inmates’ request and sent the officer home.
Renshaw said that the move set a dangerous precedent. “By allowing inmates to think they will dictate how we run these facilities or how we work certain areas, is going to put all of us-inmates, officers, staff-in harm’s way,” he said. He said prison administrators also declined the union’s request to deploy officers from the prison’s Special Operations Group, a unit akin to a prison SWAT team, to maintain order.
Union members and their allies have been advocating for a bill that would restore pay and benefits to corrections officers injured on the job, who currently do not receive the same protection as most injured police officers in the State. That measure (S596) us currently before the State’s Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee.