(TRENTON) – Assembly Law and Public Safety Chairman Charles Mainor released the following statement Monday as his committee began a hearing on a troubling lack of oversight at halfway houses operating under the Christie administration’s Department of Corrections:
“Good morning everybody and welcome to today’s meeting of the Assembly Law and Public Safety Committee.
“We’re here today for a very important reason – the troubling lack of oversight and accountability at halfway houses operating under the Department of Corrections.
“We’ve all seen the news reports detailing escapes, gang activity, drugs and sexual abuse at these facilities.
“And we’ve learned of the tragic consequences.
“These reports raise serious questions about the Christie administration’s ability to properly oversee these facilities.
“No one disagrees with the intention of helping people re-enter society as productive citizens.
“But when escapes, gang activity, drugs and sexual abuse are widespread, something is terribly wrong and unacceptable.
“Public safety is paramount, as should be the welfare of employees and inmates trying to make their lives better, but something seems to have fallen by the wayside.
“We are prepared to take whatever legislative action is necessary to remedy these problems.
“And I expect Gov. Christie and his administration to fully cooperate with our efforts.
“In fact, this matter especially deserves close scrutiny in light of Gov. Christie’s indefensible line-item vetoes of stricter halfway house oversight.
“The longer we allow this system to continue as-is unchecked, the more we jeopardize the safety and well-being of the public at large.
“The public deserves a better understanding of the conditions at these facilities, how they’re operated and what needs to be done to improve them so that everyone’s safety – the community, staff and inmates – is protected.
“When escapes, gang activity, drugs and sexual abuse are widespread at these facilities and yet Gov. Christie still opposes improved oversight, something is terribly wrong and unacceptable.”