On September 3, 2008, the ACLU-NJ and Seton Hall University School of Law's Center for Social Justice filed a class-action lawsuit against Passaic County for unconstitutional conditions at the notorious Passaic County Jail. The suit was filed on behalf of pre-trial detainees - people who have been arrested but not yet tried or convicted - and inmates awaiting sentencing who have suffered from overcrowding and unsanitary living conditions. The complaint alleges that the jail, designed to hold 896 inmates, routinely squeezed in more than 1,700 through revenue-generating contracts with other agencies. The complaint details the deplorable living conditions faced by inmates, as well as the dangerous facility conditions (such as inoperable fire safety systems) that put inmates, guards, and the community at risk. The lawsuit also claims that the state Commissioner of Corrections has failed to meet his responsibility of enforcing state laws that set minimum standards for counties to operate jails. In May 2009, the federal court granted the plaintiffs’ motion for class action status and denied the New Jersey Commissioner of Corrections motion to dismiss the complaint against him.
Current Status: This case has been settled and an independant monitor has been appointed to oversee the implementation of the settlement agreement.
- Passaic County, CSJ and ACLU-NJ Joint Statement on Settlement (8 KB pdf)
- Colon: Complaint (2.1 MB pdf)
- Colon: Class Certification Brief (1.5 MB pdf)
- Colon: District Court Opinion (56 KB pdf)
- Colon v. Passaic County - Timeline (452 KB pdf)