PBA files suit over Essex’s inmate housing arrangement with Education Health Centers of America

TRENTON – A police union is going to court to battle Essex County’s arrangement with a halfway house for the housing of inmates.

The New Jersey State PBA reported that it filed a lawsuit in Superior Court in Essex County on Monday to end the arrangement between  Education Health Centers of America and Essex County.

The PBA said that in part the lawsuit was spurred by revelations in a New York Times story earlier this year that documented escapes and other problems at halfway houses.

During hearings at the Statehouse a few weeks ago, officers told lawmakers that in some facilities violent offenders were being housed improperly with lesser, non-violent offenders, creating a dangerous situation.

“We have been complaining for years about EHCA and Essex County Executive Joseph DiVincenzo’s partnership to trade inmates for financial incentives. Public safety demands the court’s intervention to stop this illegal arrangement,” PBA President Anthony Wieners said in a statement announcing the lawsuit.

The PBA has three basic arguments in its suit: There is no statutory authority for a county to place county prison inmates in privately run facilities; when such inmates are housed elsewhere it must be done with a non-profit entity and EHCA is a “conduit” for  Community Education Centers (“CEC”), a for profit corporation; and the PBA questions the validity of EHCA as a non-profit.

“Our frustration has mounted over the years this program has continued to expand and public safety has been jeopardized while escapes and serious offenses have plagued Delaney Hall,” Wieners said. PBA files suit over Essex’s inmate housing arrangement with Education Health Centers of America