TRENTON – Thirty-five inmates – including 25 who are members or associates of criminal street gangs such as the Bloods, Crips or Latin Kings – were indicted Friday for illegally possessing cell phones in state prisons. The indictments were the result of a collaborative effort between the Division of Criminal Justice and the Department of Corrections, Attorney General Anne Milgram said.
State officials are targeting contraband cell phones in the state prisons because inmates, particularly gang members, can use such phones as a connection to the outside world for their continued participation in criminal activities.
The 35 defendants are charged in 31 separate state grand jury indictments which were handed up on Friday, Sept. 11, to Superior Court Judge Linda R. Feinberg in Mercer County and which were filed in court Monday. Of the 35 defendants, 24 are inmates at Northern State Prison in Newark, nine are inmates at East Jersey State Prison in Woodbridge, and two are inmates at South Woods State Prison in Bridgeton.
According to Criminal Justice Director Deborah L. Gramiccioni, each of the defendants was charged with unlawful possession of a cell phone in a correctional facility, a third-degree crime that carries a maximum sentence of five years in state prison and a $15,000 fine. All prison time imposed would have to be served consecutively to the inmate’s current sentence.
The defendants are serving prison sentences ranging from five years to life with 30 years of parole ineligibility. They were incarcerated for crimes that include murder, manslaughter, aggravated assault, armed robbery and drug and weapons offenses. The cell phones were found between October 2008 and June 2009.
Officials are continuing investigations that focus on the supply chain that introduces contraband cell phones into prisons.
“When we take violent gang offenders off the street, they cannot be allowed to continue to direct criminal activities using contraband cell phones,” said Milgram. “This wave of cases should signal to inmates that we are disconnecting their illicit calls, and we will seek significant additional prison time when we catch them with cell phones.”
Between August 2008 and July 2009, the DOC confiscated a total of 391 cell phones. Additional investigations are pending and other cases have been referred for prosecution to the county prosecutors in the counties where the prisons are located.
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