Gary Lanigan, the commissioner of the Department of Corrections for the State of New Jersey (DOC), and a host of others were hit with a class action filed by “civilly confined detainees” in the Special Treatment Unit (STU) of a correctional facility who claim their civil rights were violated.
Located on the grounds of East Jersey State Prison, The Adult Diagnostic and Treatment Center in Avenel, New Jersey, houses individuals convicted of (and, conversely, individuals who have only been charged with and not convicted of) certain sex crimes who are willing to undergo treatment. According to reports, it is the only complex in the U.S. dedicated solely to the treatment of sex offenders.
The detainee-filed complaint claims Lanigan, state Dept. of Human Services Commissioner Elizabeth Connolly, and STU operators and supervisors, as well as Dr. Merrill Main, the STU’s clinical director, failed “to provide adequate and meaningful mental health treatment to the named plaintiffs and all others … that have been involuntarily detained by the New Jersey Department of Human Services pursuant to the New Jersey Sexually Violent Predator Act.”
The SVPA, the complaint details, pertains to individuals who have been convicted of certain sexual offenses and have been found to have a mental disorder that creates the possibility that the individual could engage in future acts of sexual violence.
A named plaintiff in the suit claims that, despite being subject to a commitment order, he has not consented to participate in any mental health treatment program offered by the Department of Human Services. According to the inmate, despite his refusal to participate in treatment, he has never received “adequate counseling or treatment that might yield a realistic chance for his release” due to “systemic deficiencies” in the SVPA.
Although the SVPA is not meant to punish individuals—rather to provide for segregation and treatment— the complaint says in addition to receiving reportedly inadequate treatment, plaintiffs have “been confined in punitive conditions” that overstep the goal of the SVPA.
Summarily, plaintiffs seek redress for the defendants’ allegedly preference to “warehouse” such offenders out of sight in an attempt to indefinitely detain and punish, rather than treat supposed mental disabilities.