Ex-N.J. gov. nominated to head prison task force

Posted Feb 26, 2020

A former New Jersey governor may become the first person to head a civilian panel tasked with reviewing the policies and procedures of a county prison.

On Wednesday evening, the Essex County Board of Freeholders will vote on whether to approve former New Jersey Gov. Jim McGreevey to serve as chairman of the nine-person Essex County Civilian Task Force, conceived of last year to review operations at the Essex County Correctional Facility.

McGreevey would serve in the position in a volunteer capacity, according to a county spokesperson.

The task force, approved Dec. 12, will ensure “conditions of [inmates’] confinement are safe, sanitary, respectful and humane," county Executive Joseph N. DiVincenzo Jr. said, referring to the ordinance for the board’s creation.

County officials have said the task force — comprised of formerly incarcerated people, advocates, various experts and a member of the public — will hold the Essex County Correctional Facility accountable in light of recent events, including a lawsuit filed by an ex-ICE detainee who said guards allowed another inmate to attack him.

“We are pleased to nominate Governor McGreevey as chairman of the Civilian Task Force and honored that he would make himself available to serve in this volunteer role," DiVincenzo said in a statement. "Jim has a solid record of helping inmates transition back into the community after they are released and has been a strong advocate for rights of those being held in our jails. With his leadership experience and knowledge of our criminal justice system, he is extremely qualified to lead our new Task Force.”

While officials have touted the ways the task force will hold the prison accountable, critics said it was created to take away from a grassroots movement calling on the county to end its contract with ICE.

McGreevey has a history as a prison reform advocate. He already leads NJ Reentry Corporation, a non-profit organization which helps reintegrate inmates into society after their release. McGreevey was in charge of the Jersey City Employment and Training Program for six years, until he was fired in January 2019.

He did not immediately return a request for comment Wednesday morning. No other members of the task force have been named. It’s not clear exactly when it will begin.

McGreevey served as governor from 2002 until his resignation in 2004.

His nomination for task force chairman will be brought to a vote during the Board of Freeholders’ 7 p.m. meeting on Wednesday.

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