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 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.
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.