Officer punched 36 times in NJ prison attack, renewing PBA’s push for new law
CHESTERFIELD — An officer at a state correctional facility was performing routine duty Saturday when he was allegedly attacked by an inmate who punched him in the head 36 times, the union representing the officer said Tuesday.
The attack has led the PBA Local 105 leadership to renew its push for the passage of a bill establishing a compensation program for workers who are injured while performing official duties.
According to PBA 105 President Brian Renshaw, Officer Jerome Page was distributing ice and hot water to the inmates at the Albert Wagner Correctional Facility as part of his routine job responsibilities when the attack occurred. Renshaw said an inmate, who has a previous history of attacks on law enforcement officers, exited his cell and began to punch Page repeatedly in the head and face.
"During the assault Page was punched 36 times in the head, which made it difficult to call for backup from his radio," Renshaw said in a statement.
Page was eventually able to get to a phone and call for assistance. The PBA president said the officer's uniform and gear were covered in blood as a result of the attack, which left him with a split left lip that required stitches. He also suffered bruises to his head and face. Page is recovering after being hospitalized and remains on medical leave, the PBA president said.
It was not immediately clear on Tuesday whether the inmate will face any additional charges.
The union is pushing for a bill, S-596/A-3422, originally sponsored by Assemblyman Dan Benson (D-Mercer/Middlesex) earlier this year. The proposed law calls for the injured officer to get a full salary until worker’s compensation payments begin — a process that often takes several weeks. The bill also stipulates the officer would be entitled to supplemental payments that, when combined with worker’s comp, would equal the regular salary.
"Currently, officers have to apply for worker's compensation when injured on the job, making significantly less than their regular salary," Renshaw said.
In addition, the injured officers also pay for their family health benefits.
“We must continue an aggressive push for the passage of S- 596/A-3422 now that the Legislature is officially back from summer recess,” Renshaw said in a statement Tuesday. “The Legislature has a duty to protect our officers and their families by fast tracking this common sense legislation. Correctional officers must be treated fairly and this bill will ensure that injured officers can provide for their family.”
In the past year, there have been multiple attacks on corrections officers throughout the state's prison facilities. In July, a male officer at South Woods State Prison, a medium security facility in Bridgeton, was attacked by an inmate. The prisoner was being escorted from his cell to a recreation room when the alleged attack took place.
In February, another violent inmate attack on a corrections officer took place when Andrea Berry, a corrections officer at Southern State Prison, was trying to help her partner who was struggling with an inmate. Berry was attacked and punched multiple times until being knocked unconscious. The New Jersey mom told New Jersey 101.5 a month after the incident that she still hadn't received a payment from workers compensation.
"Like all of our men and women in blue, correctional officers throw themselves into the line of fire to maintain the orderly structure of New Jersey’s prison system," Renshaw said. "These are hardworking officers who deserve, but are not afforded, the same protections as other state law enforcement officers."
Toniann Antonelli is a social content producer for NJ 101.5. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, or on Twitter @ToniRadio1015.
More from NJ 101.5: