Fake Electrocutions of Inmates, That's a Lot of Fun!
There are just so few real bennies to correctional work, so who would be churlish enought to deny the guards the fun of a few "fake electrocutions?" This report is from NJ.Com reporting from Avenal, New Jersey cuts to the chase:
"One week before Javier Tabora’s release from the Adult Diagnostic and Treatment Center in Avenel, a specialized prison for sex offenders, he was summoned to an examination room. Once there, Tabora later told investigators, a sergeant instructed him to sit in an electronic chair used to scan inmates for contraband and pretend to be electrocuted. Tabora sat in the chair yelling and shaking, 'pretending that electricity was coming from the chair,' he said. Then he placed 'cream soup' in his mouth and allowed it to seep out 'for added effect.' The entire ruse was allegedly conducted to frighten a second inmate, Robert Grant, a sex offender with a history of mental health problems whom officers planned to question. In a separate interview, Grant told investigators he saw an inmate with 'foam coming from his mouth' and then became 'upset, nervous and shaking' when officers sat him in the chair while interrogating him.
The officers involved denied the allegations, saying none of Tabora’s account was true. They told investigators they were only using the chair to search Grant for contraband before questioning him. Instead of threatening to electrocute Grant, they said, the officers were trying to reassure him by unplugging the chair, used to detect metal in objects like weapons or cell phones, because Grant’s handcuffs set off an alarm, scaring him.
The conflicting accounts of the Oct. 3 incident were contained in a confidential internal affairs report obtained by The Star-Ledger. The investigation, which concluded this month, did not substantiate the electrocution threat or the preceding ruse, according to the report. Without a video camera in the examination room, the case boiled down to the officers’ word against the inmates’.
Earlier this month, the department moved to fire the three veteran officers involved but instead struck a deal allowing them to keep their jobs and receive transfers to other facilities, according to officials and documents. Each pleaded guilty to multiple infractions including conduct unbecoming and violation of safety regulations, according to the settlement agreements. Sergeants Mark Percoco and Steven Russo, also charged with neglect of duty, are serving 105-day suspensions without pay, while officer Edward Aponte will be off the job for 14 days. Officials, who requested anonymity to discuss an internal investigation, said there wasn’t enough evidence to support firing the officers if the case reached an administrative hearing.
'The investigation didn’t produce the results that we thought,' one official said. 'We knew we weren’t going to be able to sustain the removal.' In addition, the Middlesex County Prosecutor’s Office declined to pursue criminal charges. The internal documents obtained by this newspaper provide a rare glimpse at an internal investigation and the disciplinary process within the state’s prison system. Such proceedings are kept confidential: public records show when disciplinary action is taken but reveal little about the employees’ infractions or how the punishment was decided.
The Oct. 3 incident also raises questions about how inmate complaints are handled in state prisons. Officers told investigators they were questioning Grant because he was making threats against an officer, but the internal report concluded the 'threats' were only the filing of 'remedy forms,' which give inmates a way to express concerns. And, when pressed, no one could locate the 'threatening' complaints Grant was accused of writing. Deborah Jacobs, executive director of the New Jersey chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union, expressed concern that inmates were being discouraged from complaining. 'Respect for internal affairs and prisoners’ rights to address grievances is essential to the integrity of prisons and other such institutions,' she said. 'The only way to create a silver lining to this tragic and appalling incident is to use it as a springboard for establishing grievance and oversight systems and training programs to ensure that nothing like it ever happens again.'
During the four-month probe documented in the internal report, investigators videotaped interviews with inmates Grant and Tabora, the three officers under investigation, and several other employees in the prison. The facility, built in 1976, provides treatment to about 650 sex offenders, including those with mental illnesses. Corrections spokesman Matt Schuman declined to comment on this case, and Russo’s lawyer did not return messages left at his office. Tabora, now under parole supervision, referred questions to his lawyer, who did not return calls for comment.
Robert Fagella, a Newark lawyer representing Aponte, said his client is a model employee whose lighter suspension shows he didn’t do anything seriously wrong. 'He just happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time,' Fagella said. 'There wasn’t very much there to charge him with. I think it was a face-saving device.'
The Oct. 3 incident was brought to the attention of investigators by a third inmate at the prison, the report said. The inmate told investigators Grant was being mocked by staff members who were "making a sizzling sound" like they were 'frying meat.' The inmate said Grant was telling other inmates he was strapped to a chair and threatened with electrocution. The investigation found that Aponte and Russo had gone to the prison’s recreation yard to fetch Grant, then brought him handcuffed to the examination room for a strip search. Percoco told investigators he brought Tabora to the room to reorganize equipment, then sent him out when Grant arrived. Russo said they asked Grant to sit on the electronic chair to search him for metal. According to Russo, Grant has a habit of using razor blades to remove tobacco from cigarette butts in the prison yard. Afterward, Russo told investigators, they escorted Grant from the room, providing him juice at a nearby office before releasing him. According to the Corrections website, Grant is now serving his five-year term at South Woods State Prison in Bridgeton.
You know, it's kind of a relief that we don't just pull this sort of shit on Iraqis and Afganis.