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The Worst Prisons in the State of New Jersey

New Jersey, with a prison population of over 20,300 inmates in 2022, operates a network of 12 active state prisons. While this number may appear relatively low compared to other states in the US, New Jersey’s correctional facilities have been under scrutiny for providing subpar services and facilities. In this article, we will delve into the state’s prison system, examining its history, facilities, issues, and some of the worst prisons in the state.

The New Jersey Department of Corrections (NJDOC)

The New Jersey Department of Corrections (NJDOC) is responsible for overseeing the state’s prisons. With a workforce of 24,000 officers, New Jersey boasts a higher number of officers available per inmate compared to other states. The NJDOC operates on an annual budget of 1.076 billion, which supports seven male correctional facilities, three youth facilities, one facility for rehabilitating sex offenders, one women’s correctional institution, and a central reception unit for prisoners on trial.

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The Abolition of the Death Penalty in New Jersey

In 2007, New Jersey joined other states in the US that repealed the death penalty. Then-Governor Jon Corzine signed the law, resulting in the commutation of death row inmates’ sentences to life imprisonment without parole. This move was highly regarded by human rights activists worldwide and represented a significant shift in New Jersey’s approach to criminal justice.

Prison Facilities in New Jersey

Regardless of whether a prison is minimum, medium, or maximum security, the NJDOC ensures that all inmates have access to recreational and rehabilitation facilities. The aim is to prepare them for reintegrating into society upon release, fostering a sense of responsibility and contribution to their well-being. Annually, over 1200 inmates are incarcerated and released, with the average offender serving around six years in prison.

Challenges in New Jersey’s State Prisons

Despite having a relatively strong force and manpower, New Jersey’s state prisons face several challenges that invite criticism and investigations. Some of the key issues are:

Hygiene-related issues

Former inmates have reported unsanitary conditions, including sleeping in confinement cells infested with rats and molds, making the living conditions deplorable.

Inadequate control of prison gang wars

Despite efforts to control gang activities, New Jersey prisons still experience gang violence, necessitating more effective measures to mitigate such conflicts.

Excessive use of force by guards

Inmates have accused guards of using excessive force and being uncooperative when crimes are reported, leading to a lack of trust between prisoners and officers.

Prisons located on contaminated sites

Some prisons are situated on contaminated and toxic sites, affecting the health of the inmates serving their sentences in these facilities.

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The 7 Worst Prisons in New Jersey

New Jersey State Prison

The oldest prison in New Jersey, housing over 1,819 dangerous offenders requiring maximum security. Gang wars, sexual violence, and attacks on guards are common occurrences. Moreover, its location on a toxic site further jeopardizes the health of its inmates.

East Jersey State Prison

A medium-security prison opened in 1901, known for past riots and ongoing gang wars. The prison’s solitary confinement conditions are harsh, with hygiene issues leaving inmates vulnerable to rat-infested sleeping quarters.

Southern State Correctional Facility

One of the largest male prisons in New Jersey, it faces significant challenges due to housing inmates in dormitories, contributing to gang violence.

Bayside State Prison

Known for gang violence and racial issues due to a significant racial divide among inmates, leading to rampant sexual violence.

Garden State Youth Correctional Facility

Though lauded for its efforts in educating young adult offenders, its location on a contaminated site results in former inmates reporting health issues.

Northern State Prison

Overcrowding and gang violence are persistent issues, although efforts have been made to reduce violence through rehabilitation courses.

South Woods State Prison

Inmates face violence based on ethnicity, making survival difficult for those not affiliated with particular groups.


New Jersey’s state prisons face several challenges, leading to criticisms and investigations into their operations. While efforts have been made to improve conditions, issues such as hygiene, gang violence, and excessive force by guards persist. The existence of some of the worst prisons in New Jersey raises concerns about the welfare of inmates and the need for continued reform in the state’s correctional system.

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  1. Q: How many state prisons are there in New Jersey?
    • A: New Jersey has over 12 active state prisons.
  2. Q: When was the death penalty abolished in New Jersey?
    • A: New Jersey repealed the death penalty in 2007.
  3. Q: What is the average annual cost per inmate in New Jersey?
    • A: The average annual cost per inmate in New Jersey is around $47,000.
  4. Q: How many inmates are incarcerated and released annually in New Jersey?
    • A: Over 1200 inmates are incarcerated and released in New Jersey each year.
  5. Q: Which is the oldest and worst prison in New Jersey?
    • A: The New Jersey State Prison, being the oldest, is considered one of the worst prisons in the state.

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