Christie axes bill that would’ve banned solitary confinement
TRENTON -- Republican Gov. Chris Christie on Monday rejected a bill that would have prohibited solitary confinement in state prisons.
Christie said New Jersey doesn't use isolated confinement.
"This is not a bill," he said in a statement. "It is ill-informed, politically motivated press release by a prime sponsor who proves once again, that he has no idea about law enforcement or what is being done by the very department he proposes to further regulate."
The bill's sponsor, Democratic state Sen. Ray Lesniak, a member of the Legislature since 1978, said he can't recall a governor singling out a lawmaker in a veto statement like that before.
There's an apparent dispute over the definition of isolated confinement.
Lesniak said so-called restrictive housing amounts to punitive solitary confinement, but Christie said placement in those units is carefully considered and the practice is used mostly for medical reasons.
Christie says it was his administration that ended punitive confinement as a policy.
All inmates, regardless of housing status, have access to social services as well as medical, dental and mental health services, the governor said.
Lesniak said that the governor has "his head in the sand on this one." His bill called for prohibiting solitary confinement except in cases in which there was a reasonable cause to think the inmate posed a substantial risk. The bill also required a medical and mental health evaluation before an inmate could be placed in solitary confinement.
The senator said the bill was needed because solitary confinement causes mental health problems along with anger and resentment that make successful re-entry into society difficult.
Supporters of the legislation criticized Christie's veto. The American Civil Liberties Union of New Jersey said the Christie administration was blind to the "reality" of solitary confinement.
"In prisons and jails throughout New Jersey, people continue to suffer from solitary confinement every day, no matter what you call it," ACLU-NJ staff attorney Alexander Shalom said.
Christie also took action on 16 other measures, signing 15 and vetoing one.
Among the other bills he signed, he enacted legislation requiring the state's correctional facilities to provide inmates with prescription medication for chronic conditions that existed before incarceration.
He also signed resolutions promoting the state's oyster harvest and designating the third weekend October as Shuck, Sip and Slurp Weekend.
Another new law requires the state attorney general to come up with a plan for putting out Amber and Silver alert information on social media.
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