The Department of Corrections is committed to ensuring public safety, rehabilitating the incarcerated and functioning in an efficient, cost-effective manner.
The mission of the Office of Employee Relations is to develop and maintain a positive relationship between the NJDOC and its employees. The office works to guide both management and employees through the employee relations process in a constructive and efficient manner. The Office of Employee Relations responds on a daily basis to concerns raised by management and the bargaining units that represent the department’s 9,000-plus employees. The office works closely with administration, and custody and civilian staff to promptly address various workplace issues.
The Office of Employee Relations is composed of three primary units.
- The Employee Relations/Liaison Unit represents the NJDOC in contract negotiations and in the administration of 11 collective bargaining agreements. It also advises the commissioner, high-level managers, and unit supervisors in the administration of Department of Personnel rules and regulations as contained in Title 4A of the New Jersey Administrative Code. The unit reviews current case law and proposed rule changes to ensure that the department’s practices remain compliant with applicable law and regulations.
- The Due Process/Hearing Unit hears all of the department’s second-step grievances and complex departmental-level disciplinary appeals. Hearing officers render written decisions on disciplinary actions initiated by the department. In addition, the unit provides ongoing training on a variety of employee relations matters.
- The Employment Litigation Unit assists the Office of the Attorney General and/or private counsel in their representation of the NJDOC in state and federal litigation involving allegations of employment discrimination, harassment, retaliation and wrongful termination. The unit also represents the department before the Office of Administrative Law in disciplinary actions appeals to the Merit System Board. In addition, it represents the NJDOC at grievances and arbitrations, and regarding unfair labor practice charges filed with the Public Employment Relations Commission.
- The Ethics Unit ensures that employees of the NJDOC comply with statutes, rules, regulations and legal authority that establish the standards for ethical conduct of all employees. To enhance awareness and understanding of the standards of conduct with which state employees must comply during the course of their employment, the ethics unit provides employees with state statutes and regulations regarding ethics, to include the Uniform Code of Ethics and Plain Language Guide. In addition, the unit reviews employee applications for attendance at events and secondary employment to ensure compliance with the conflict-of-interest law.
The Equal Employment Division (EED) is responsible for ensuring that the NJDOC provides its employees with a workplace free from all forms of discrimination, harassment and retaliation.
The EED monitors compliance of this policy through investigation of complaints filed by employees regarding discrimination or harassment based on an individual's membership in a protected class, such as gender, race or religion. In 2010, the EED received 221 internal complaints and 13 external complaints. Following an investigation, employees who are found to have engaged in acts of discrimination, harassment or retaliation are subject to administrative remedies, including disciplinary action.
The EED also represents the NJDOC in external discrimination claims before the Division of Civil Rights and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. In addition, the division is responsible for keeping all staff current on policies, procedures and legal requirements through the distribution of documents as well as educational workshops and training classes. The EED also serves as the department’s representative on the New Jersey Human Relations Council, New Jersey Affirmative Action Officers Council and the Equal Employment Opportunity Advisory Committee.
The EED further provides legal assistance, discovery and trial assistance in employment litigation matters involving allegations of discrimination, harassment, retaliation and/or hostile work environments. The division prepares and publishes annual federal and state workforce compliance reports as required by the Federal Division on Civil Rights and the State Office of Workforce Initiatives and Development.
The Employment Litigation Unit, also under the auspices of the EED, assists the Office of the Attorney General and/or private counsel in their representation of the NJDOC in state and federal litigation involving allegations of employment discrimination, harassment, retaliation and wrongful termination. The unit also represents the department before the Office of Administrative Law in disciplinary actions appeals to the Merit System Board. In addition, it represents the NJDOC at grievances and arbitrations, and regarding unfair labor practice charges filed with the Public Employment Relations Commission.
Now under the Governor’s Office, the Office of the Corrections Ombudsman provides a concerned medium within which inmates can seek redress for issues and concerns. The office functions independently from the administration of the operational units; this detachment enables the development of trust, confidentiality and objectivity between the ombudsmen and inmates. In considering any given instance or concern, the interests and rights of all parties who might be involved are taken into account. The office supplements, but does not replace, the department's existing resources for conflict resolution.
In addition, the Office of the Corrections Ombudsman reviews rules, regulations, standards, policies, procedures and practices to ensure they are consistent with federal and state guidelines, the Civil Rights Act and New Jersey's Code of Criminal Justice. The Corrections Ombudsman and Assistant Ombudsmen regularly visit the correctional facilities, satellite units and community-based programs to ensure that living conditions are adequate and to allow the incarcerated the opportunity to be heard and impartially evaluated.
The Office of Legal Affairs oversees significant legal matters for the NJDOC and acts as liaison between the department and the Office of the Attorney General. The office provides daily guidance to the Commissioner and Executive Staff regarding legal and quasi-legal matters that impact the department.
The Office of Legal Affairs also is responsible for the following areas:
Administrative Rules Unit – The primary responsibilities of the Administrative Rules Unit (ARU) are to develop, maintain and timely promulgate New Jersey Administrative Code 10A rules for the NJDOC. As such, ARU staff coordinates rulemaking proceedings with NJDOC administrative staff, staff of the Office of the Governor, the Office of the Attorney General, the Office of Administrative Law and LexisNexis (the publisher). Rulemaking proceedings include, but are not limited to, formulating new rules, repealing, amending and readopting existing rules, timely responding to petitions for rule changes, and meeting publication and other time-sensitive deadlines as required by New Jersey law.
Disciplinary Hearing Unit – This unit provides hearing officers to all state correctional facilities to adjudicate inmate disciplinary charges in a timely and efficient manner, in accordance with the United States Supreme Court’s decision in Wolff v. McDonnell.
Special Investigations Division – The Special Investigations Division (SID) is responsible for investigations into violations of the laws of the State of New Jersey and violations of the administrative code for the NJDOC by inmates, employees and those individuals who visit NJDOC facilities.
The SID is represented at each facility, where investigators not only conduct all criminal and some administrative investigations, but also act as NJDOC liaisons to all law enforcement agencies. SID investigators regularly conduct cooperative investigations in conjunction with federal, state, county and municipal law enforcement agencies, and are called on to provide expert witness testimony in state and federal courts on a regular basis.
SID investigators receive ongoing technical training in an effort to maintain the department’s ability to keep pace with the ever-changing criminal atmosphere. All personnel are mandated to attend the Basic Course for Investigators Course through the Division of Criminal Justice. In addition, investigative personnel routinely attend departmental training and training opportunities offered through other law enforcement agencies. These courses include: Methods of Instruction, Firearms Training and Instructor Courses, Top Gun Narcotics Training, Crime Scene Processing, Polygraph Training, Handwriting Analysis, Intelligence (Gang) Training, Fugitive Apprehension Training and HAZMAT Training.
The division has expanded its role within the NJDOC with the establishment of a number of specialized units. These units have catapulted the SID into the forefront as a state-of-the-art correctional investigative unit.
- Intelligence Unit – The unit is nationally recognized as a leader in correctional gang intelligence. Investigators assigned to the Intelligence Unit have provided gang identification training to thousands of law enforcement professionals in New Jersey and many other states.
- Fugitive Unit – Investigators assigned to this unit have worked with dozens of agencies throughout New Jersey and beyond in an effort to remove escaped offenders from the streets. The department’s Fugitive Unit continues to work jointly with the New Jersey State Police Fugitive Unit and the U.S. Marshal’s Office.
NCIC Systems/Clearances – This unit is responsible for safeguarding NJDOC computer assets from unauthorized access, disclosure, misuse, dissemination or destruction. It is also responsible for the clearance and issuance of NJDOC identification cards for prospective civilian employees, contract employees, temporary employees and volunteers.
- Random Urine/Training – This unit ensures that drug testing guidelines are in compliance with the Law Enforcement Drug Testing Policy established by the Attorney General of the State of New Jersey promulgated in September 1998.
- Drug Interdiction Unit – In an effort to prevent controlled dangerous substances from being introduced into NJDOC facilities, this unit employs the Ionscan computerized drug detection machine to collect and analyze microscopic particles of up to 15 narcotics and up to one-billionth of a gram.
- Internal Affairs Unit – Responsibilities of this unit include investigating violations of the laws of the State of New Jersey as well as violations of the New Jersey Administrative Code 10A and NJDOC policies and procedures by employees, inmates, inmates’ family/associates, volunteers or contract vendors/employees and other individuals who visit NJDOC facilities.
- Domestic Violence Unit – As the designated departmental liaison to the New Jersey Office of the Attorney General, this unit is responsible for ensuring that the department is in compliance with the Attorney General’s policies regarding staff involvement in domestic violence incidents.
- Computer Forensic and Polygraph Unit – The unit is responsible for the forensic analysis of computers and computer storage devices related to computer crimes or violations of the department’s microcomputer policy. SID investigators continue to provide expert law enforcement skills to the NJDOC as polygraphists and document examiners.
- Community Investigation Unit – This unit conducts administrative investigations and participates in the oversight of activity in Residential Community Release Programs (halfway houses) around the state. The unit routinely coordinates searches of these facilities in an attempt to minimize negative behavior and contraband in these facilities.
- Identification Unit – Inmate, employee and volunteer identification functions and procedures are the primary responsibilities of this unit.
- Security Unit – This unit is charged with ensuring the safety and security of the NJDOC Central Office complex, including staff, visitors and buildings.
The Office of Public Information is responsible for providing information regarding NJDOC events, programs, functions, services and activities to the media, other governmental agencies and the public.
The office promotes public awareness of the functions of the NJDOC through a Web site, the Inside Corrections newsletter, annual reports and promotional materials.
The Office of Public Information also is responsible for the following areas:
- Legislative Services – The unit keeps abreast of proposed and current legislation that may impact the NJDOC. The unit maintains a cooperative and informative working relationship with the state legislature and committee aides, the Governor’s Office and the Office of Legislative Services in order to respond to inquires and requests for constituent assistance, and to provide supportive or unfavorable comments and necessary amendatory language during the process of enacting law. In addition, the unit provides staff with updates regarding legislative initiatives in an effort to track and disseminate any proposed legislation or amendments that may require a position by the NJDOC.
- Government Records – The unit is responsible for ensuring compliance by the department with the Open Public Records Act (OPRA). To accomplish this mission, every OPRA request received by the NJDOC is reviewed to determine whether all or part of the request for document(s) can be released to the public in accordance with the law. All government record requests directed to the department are processed and responded to within the designated time period.