How are inmates treated at the bergen county jail?
AS A CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY, LOCATED IN HACKENSACK, BERGEN COUNTY, NEW JERSEY, I HAVE VISITED THE BERGEN COUNTY JAIL (BCJ) LOCATED AT 160 SOUTH RIVER STREET IN HACKENSACK, NEW JERSEY ON NUMEROUS OCCASIONS. I HAVE VISITED CLIENTS AND/OR POTENTIAL CLIENTS IN AT LEAST A DOZEN OR SO OTHER JAILS THROUGHOUT THE STATE OF NEW JERSEY. FOR THOSE WITH FRIENDS OR FAMILY IN THE BERGEN COUNTY JAIL, I WOULD LIKE TO SHARE MY EXPERIENCE OF THE JAIL, AS WELL AS, MY OBSERVATIONS ABOUT THE JAIL. I AM DOING THIS SO AS TO ALLEVIATE SOME, IF NOT ALL, OF YOUR CONCERNS ABOUT THE WELL-BEING OF YOUR LOVED ONE.
REST ASSURED THAT IN MY OPINION THE BERGEN COUNTY JAIL IS ONE OF, IF NOT, THE TOP JAIL IN NEW JERSEY. I WILL ENDEAVOR TO SUPPORT THIS ASSERTION AND PROVIDE DETAILED REASONS FOR MAKING THIS STATEMENT. I JUST WANT TO GET THE NEGATIVE PART OUT OF THE WAY AT THE VERY BEGINNING OF THIS BLOG. THE ONLY ARGUABLY “BAD” ASPECT OF THE BERGEN COUNTY JAIL IS THE LIMITED PARKING. THEN AGAIN, OTHER JAILS IN THE STATE DON’T EVEN OFFER PARKING, SO THE LIMITED PARKING SPACES AVAILABLE AT THE BCJ IS A MINOR POINT.
FOR STARTERS, THE BCJ HAS TOP LEVEL SECURITY. EVEN AS AN ATTORNEY WHO HAS VISITED THE JAIL ON COUNTLESS OCCASIONS, I AM SUBJECT TO THE SAME LEVEL OF SCRUTINY AS ANY OTHER VISITOR. I STILL MUST SHOW THE PROPER IDENTIFICATION AND PROVIDE A THUMB OR INDEX FINGER SCAN. NEXT, I MUST WALK THROUGH THE METAL DETECTOR, SIGN IN AND LEAVE MY BELONGINGS IN A LOCKER.
Once beyond the first layer of security, a sheriff’s officer almost always escorts me to the section of the jail where my client is located. If I am not provided an escort, the eye in the sky watches my every move and knows exactly when to buzz me through each six 6 inch-thick, slow-moving, iron door. There are many different doors that I must pass through before reaching the corresponding cell block housing my client. I have an identification sticker placed on the breast of my suit and every officer greets me courteously and professionally.
As I walk the halls, the prisoners all wear the same orange jumpsuit and are told to face the wall and stand still as I walk past them. There is always half a dozen or so officers at each end of the hall keeping the peace. You can also observe a few offices on every floor pacing up and down each hallway patrolling that section of the jail.
It is extremely quit in the jail as compared to other jails in the state. At the BCJ, I’ve never heard the howling, crying, shouting, yelling and insanity I’ve witnessed elsewhere. This silence reflects a highly functioning, well-ordered, no-nonsense atmosphere in the jail. There is an obvious zero-tolerance approach to maintaining strict adherence to jailhouse rules. There does not exist any doubt that each inmate must follow protocol.
The next aspect of the BCJ that requires mention is its cleanliness. The floors are spotless. On almost every single one of my visits, whether it was morning, afternoon or evening, I always observed an inmate either mopping or using a circular-spinning machine to buff or wax the floors. They shined like mirrors. The smell was always reminiscent of a hospital. They take their fight against germs very seriously at the BCJ. It’s an understatement to describe the facility as sterile. Inmates have access to medical assistance and bathrooms and showers are clean and safe.
If you have a friend or family member incarcerated in the Bergen County Jail, you are undoubtedly going through a very difficult and dark time right now. Your family must be struggling, and you are naturally filled with anxiety and constant worry. If anything, please let this writing ease your pain and anguish by knowing that the jail is one of the best in the state.
Once each inmate is processed, they are assigned to a section of the jail with other inmates who have been arrested for similar crimes. It’s not like the movies where they’ll lock up an 18-year-old kid arrested for drug possession with a serial killer. The real violent criminals (murderers and rapists) are segregated from the DUI/DWI, misdemeanor, drug possession inmates. The guards are the most professional I’ve ever met, and the surveillance and security technology is state of the art.
The Bergen County Jail is also a rather small jail and therefore it is easier to manage and control. I was visiting a client once when a fight broke out and it ended within seconds. The guards swarmed the two inmates who were fighting, and they extinguished the confrontation within seconds. No one was hurt.
God forbid that someone close to me ever had to spend time in jail for whatever reason. I pray it never happens, but if it did, I would only wish that their stay was brief and at the BCJ.
Mr. Peyrouton is a Criminal Defense Attorney in Hackensack, Bergen County, NJ.