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Gangland Behind Bars - How and Why Organized Criminal Street Gangs Thrive in New Jersey's Prisons... And What Can Be Done About It

NCJ Number
Date Published
May 2009
96 pages
The New Jersey State Commission of Investigation presents its final report on its findings and recommendations stemming from an investigation of organized criminal street gangs in the State's prison system.
The study found that despite efforts by prison administrators to curtail the influence of gangs in New Jersey's prisons, increasing numbers of gang-affiliated inmates are exploiting systemic weaknesses to organize and thrive inside prisons. They communicate with cohorts both inside and outside prison through cell phones and other means; and they readily obtain, use, and deal in contraband, including illegal narcotics. They conduct illicit financial transactions and launder money through an official system of inmate accounts. They corrupt corrections personnel, including custody officers and civilian staff. Together, these circumstances enable them to nurture and advance violent criminal enterprises while incarcerated and also after they are released. This report recommends sweeping administrative and statutory reforms on multiple levels in addressing the gang problem in New Jersey's prisons. The current identification process and the lack of an adequate intelligence system restricts the Department of Corrections (DOC) ability to measure and respond to the full scope of gang-related activity throughout the prison system. The State's entire law enforcement community should develop and use uniform and effective methods for identifying gang members and for collecting and sharing gang-related intelligence information. Immediate steps must also be taken to address real and potential security lapses in daily prison operation. Further, the inmate financial account system should be reformed to place limits on the amount of money that can be deposited and held in these accounts, as well as the number of inmate transactions. In order to detect and confiscate inmate cell phones, effective procedure, coupled with technological improvements should be put in place. DOC personnel selection, disciplinary procedures, and training must also be improved. Appended summary of key findings