Office of Legal Affairs & Regulatory Affairs
The Office of Legal & Regulatory Affairs oversees legal matters for the NJDOC and acts as liaison between the department and the Office of the Attorney General. The office provides guidance to the Commissioner and Executive Staff regarding legal and quasi-legal matters that impact the department.
The Office of Legal & Regulatory Affairs also is responsible for the following areas:
Administrative Rules Unit (ARU) - The primary responsibilities of the 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.
Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) Unit - The ADA coordinator reviews grievances from staff and inmates and ensures that the NJDOC is in compliance with the federal ADA and the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination regarding disabilities. The ADA coordinator advises on all disability-related matters.
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.
Government Records - The unit is responsible for ensuring compliance by the department with the Open Public Records Act (OPRA), N.J.S.A. 47:1A-1 et seq. 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.
Inmate Litigation Unit - This unit ensures that all inmate litigation directed toward the NJDOC is processed in accordance with the policies and procedures of the NJDOC and the Office of the Attorney General. The unit processes incoming legal documents served on the NJDOC and/or employees as follows:
- Civil actions (U.S. District and Superior Court complaints)
- Writs of Habeas Corpus
- Small Claims Complaints
- Municipal Complaints
- State Tort Claims
The litigation staff maintains a working relationship with the Office of the Attorney General during the preparation of legal representation for cases involving the NJDOC; provides support and direction to the litigation liaisons in each correctional facility; and updates and advises the Commissioner on the status and potential impact of pending litigation.
Legislative Services - The unit keeps abreast of proposed and current legislation that may impact the NJDOC and 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 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.
Equal Employment Division (EED) – The NJDOC is committed to providing its employees and prospective employees with a work environment free from discrimination or harassment. The mission of the EED is to ensure compliance with the Policy Prohibiting Discrimination in the Workplace, through dissemination of the policy, training and investigations, and providing remedial action where necessary.
The EED is responsible for keeping all staff current on policies, procedures and legal requirements relevant to the Policy Prohibiting Discrimination in the Workplace, through the annual distribution of the policy and relevant documents as well as through training and educational workshops.
In order to maintain compliance with the policy, EED conducts thorough, fair and impartial investigations into complaints that are filed with the EED that have a nexus to the policy. The EED has jurisdiction over matters wherein the alleged discrimination and/or harassment is connected to a protected category as set forth in the policy and on the EED complaint form. Following an investigation, employees who are found to have engaged in acts of discrimination, harassment or retaliation are subject to remedial action, including disciplinary charges and/or administrative remedies.
In addition, the EED represents the NJDOC in external discrimination claims before the Division on Civil Rights and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. The EED also serves as the department’s representative on the New Jersey Human Relations Council, the New Jersey Affirmative Action Officers Council and the Equal Employment Officers Committee.
Ethics – It is essential that the conduct of State of New Jersey employees hold the respect and confidence of the people. Therefore, employees must avoid conduct that is in violation of the public trust or gives the appearance that such trust is being violated. The State Ethics Commission (SEC) is the State of New Jersey agency responsible for monitoring compliance with the New Jersey Uniform Ethics Code (UEC).
The ethics section of the EED serves as the liaison between the NJDOC and the SEC. The ethics staff is responsible for approving requests and maintaining records involving Outside Activity/Secondary Employment and Attendance at Events. The ethics staff is responsible for conducting investigations into ethics allegations filed internally with the NJDOC and for training on the UEC. The ethics section of the EED also is responsible for the annual distribution of the Ethics Briefing. The Ethics Officer for the NJDOC represents the NJDOC at statewide quarterly meetings with the SEC.
Conscientious Employee Protection Act (CEPA) – The CEPA section of the EED is responsible for training and conducting investigations under CEPA. CEPA provides that an employer shall not retaliate against an employee who: (1) discloses or threatens to disclose an activity which the employee reasonably believes is in violation of a law, rule or regulation; (2) provides information to, or testifies before, any public body conducting an investigation/hearing into any violation of a law, rule or regulation; or (3) objects to or refuses to participate in any activity, policy or practice that the employee reasonably believes is in violation of a law, rule or regulation, is fraudulent or criminal, or is incompatible with a clear mandate.
Employment Litigation Compliance Unit – The Employment Litigation Compliance section of the EED provides legal support, including guidance, case reviews, discovery and trial assistance to outside counsel and Deputy Attorneys General with the Department of Law and Public Safety in employment litigation matters involving allegations of discrimination, harassment, retaliation and/or hostile work environments.
Office of Employee Relations (OER) - The OER is comprised of the following units:
Employee Relations/Liaison Unit – This unit represents the NJDOC at contract negotiations and in the administration of negotiation unit (union) agreements and any such agreements that occur in the future. The unit advises the Commissioner, upper-level managers and unit supervisors regarding the department’s obligations under the collective negotiation agreements as well as the administration of Civil Service Commission rules and regulations as contained in Title 4A of the New Jersey Administrative Code.
Hearings and Appeals Unit – This unit is responsible for hearing all departmental Step-2-level grievances as well as all major and complex departmental disciplinary appeals, including those that emanate from the Equal Employment Division. The unit also provides real-time advice on the preparation and service of disciplinary charges and specifications.
Legal Affairs and Training Unit – This unit represents the NJDOC before the Office of Administrative Law on appeals of major disciplinary actions and releases at the end of working test periods that have been appealed to the Civil Service Commission. The unit assists Deputy Attorneys General in preparing matters involving employee removals from employment. In addition, the unit is charged with representing the department at all grievance arbitrations, other-interest arbitrations, unfair labor practice charges before the Public Employment Relations Commission, the Joint Union Management Panel and in the Alternate Dispute Resolution Process. The unit provides training to department-wide staff in areas such as Hearing Officer Training, Management Representation, Dealing with Problem Employees, appearing before the Office of Administrative Law and other topics on an as-needed basis. Furthermore, the unit staffs the Legal Services coordinator who is responsible to provide annual “Access to the Courts” training to inmate paralegals at each facility, as required by the New Jersey Administrative Code.
Special Investigations Division (SID) – The SID is responsible for investigations into violations of the laws of the State of New Jersey and violations of the Administrative Code by state-sentenced 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. The division has expanded its role within the NJDOC with the establishment of several specialized units. These units have catapulted the SID into the forefront as a state-of-the-art correctional investigative unit.
- Drug Interdiction Unit – This unit employs a computerized drug detection machine to collect and analyze microscopic particles of up to 15 narcotics and up to one-billionth of a gram. Along with the obvious deterrent to drug activity, the NJDOC has made numerous seizures of controlled dangerous substances and witnessed a significant decrease in drug-related inmate disciplinary charges.
- Intelligence Unit – This unit is nationally recognized as a leader in correctional gang intelligence. In fact, 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 the New Jersey State Police Fugitive Unit and dozens of agencies throughout New Jersey and beyond in an effort to remove escaped offenders from the streets. Fugitive cases are conducted with a variety of federal, state and local law enforcement agencies under a formal cooperative relationship with the U.S. Marshals Regional Fugitive Task Force in New Jersey. This unit has been extremely successful, and numerous cooperative apprehensions have been made.
- Computer Forensic and Polygraph Unit – This 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. The unit also performs forensics examinations on cell phones to assist with administrative and criminal investigations.
- Internal Affairs Unit – The unit is responsible for conducting major disciplinary cases, corruption and criminal cases. This unit also processes criminal background checks for volunteers, civilian employees and contract vendors. In addition, the unit oversees the Random Drug Policy for Covered Personnel and coordinates and processes all departmental domestic violence cases.
Office of Public Information
The Office of Public Information is responsible for providing information regarding NJDOC events, programs, functions, services and activities to the media, to other governmental agencies and to 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.