BORDENTOWN CITY — At least one dozen jailbirds launched a morning melee inside the state’s wild, wild West Burlington Street juvenile detention facility, according to a Juvenile Justice Commission spokesperson, who said the incident left one jail guard and one inmate injured.
The JJC described the incident as a five-minute-long “fight” involving “13 residents.” But that official account strongly contrasts with the narrative provided by an inside source who works at the Bordentown City-based Juvenile Medium Security Facility.
The source told The Trentonian that yesterday’s 8 a.m. brawl was a “premeditated, gang-related riot” involving up to 60 inmates and culminating with at least five jail guards getting hurt.
Details aside, the latest riot reaffirms that New Jersey’s juvenile detention facilities are out of control — something Gov. Jon Corzine is reportedly aware of.
Sources said the lame-duck governor in the weeks leading up to the election made a big stink about the need to reform the JJC. Sources said the Corzine administration was looking into placing the state’s biggest and baddest criminal juvies in the custody of the adult prison system.
The Trentonian in the past two years has documented multiple bloodshed moments that have occurred at the JJC facilities, especially the one here in Bordentown City in which the following incidents took place:
— An inmate attacked a male jail guard after that inmate tried to rape a female jail guard in October
— A 14-year-old inmate pummeled a jail guard with a trash can in May
— A lieutenant suffered a broken nose in an October 2007 face-off with a 17-year-old inmate
— Two juvenile jail guards were hospitalized from a clash with gangster Bloods inmates in April 2007
In yesterday’s incident, the inside source told The Trentonian that about two dozen perpetrating inmates were placed in a “segregation” lockdown after being positively identified as culprits in the melee.
JJC spokeswoman Sharon Lauchaire denied the source’s “allegations.” Lauchaire said one inmate was hospitalized and that only one jail guard was treated and released after receiving medical attention.
Lauchaire went out of her way to explain that the one injured guard was “not injured breaking up the fight; he was injured responding en route to it.”
She didn’t have more specific information on the circumstances of the injury and couldn’t say whether the guard fell as he was rushing over to the fight.
Lauchaire also declined to comment on what disciplinary action, if any, has been taken against the rioting jailbirds, but she said “the incident was quelled and over with in about five minutes.”
If or when a huge riot breaks out at a JJC jail, a specialized force of Department of Corrections personnel could be asked to help restore order. But Lauchaire said the JJC administration “made no request” to any outside agency for assistance in yesterday’s brawl.
The inside source said a SWAT team was prepared to deal with the juvenile delinquents but was denied from intervening in the incident, which the source said was broadcast as a “10/100” riot.
Lauchaire said the JJC, under its ongoing investigation, will look into whether the incident was gang-related.
The JJC is often criticized as being an agency that “coddles” its inmate population, which mostly comprises hoodlums between the ages of 14 and 21.
The JJC was formed in 1995 to take criminal children from the custody of the juvenile wing of New Jersey’s DOC. The JJC from its inception has stressed rehabilitation over punishment.