Advocates are calling for the closure of New Jersey’s three youth prisons after an inactive correctional officer for the New Jersey Juvenile Justice Commission (JJC) was charged for allegedly using unjustified force and breaking the wrist of a male youth.

The incident took place last October at the JJC Juvenile Medium Security Facility in Bordentown, N.J. Lt. Edward Day and other correctional officers were escorting a 16-year-old juvenile from his room to another location in the facility, with his arms handcuffed behind his back, when Day allegedly grabbed the victim’s ankle from behind, pulled his leg back, and pushed him face forward onto the ground. Day then allegedly grabbed hold of the juvenile’s handcuffed wrists and twisted and broke one of them.

Day was charged with third-degree aggravated assault by the Attorney General’s Office of Public Integrity and Accountability (OPIA). The charge is the result of an investigation by the OPIA Corruption Bureau and JJC’s Office of Investigations. If found guilty, Day faces three to five years in state prison and a $15,000 fine.

The incident and the allegations were not made public until this week. The New Jersey Institute for Social Justice (NJISJ) is condemning the abuse and renewed its call for the closure of New Jersey’s three youth prisons: Jamesburg, Hayes, and the Juvenile Medium Security Facility.

“Violence against incarcerated youth is abhorrent and unacceptable,” stated Yannick Wood, director of the Criminal Justice Reform Program at NJISJ. “It reflects the broken condition of New Jersey’s overfunded and antiquated youth prisons, which are plagued by structural racism, emotional harm and even physical violence.”

In 2018, New Jersey ordered that Jamesburg and Hayes youth prisons be closed. To date, they remain open, along with JMSF.

In August of this year, Lt. Gov. Sheila Oliver signed a bill into law that will funnel $8.4 million from youth incarceration into much-needed and proven community-support systems such as restorative justice programs that rehabilitate youth instead of further harming them by incarcerating them.

This latest incident follows widely reported allegations of misconduct in adult prisons including indictments of two guards for allegedly assaulting an inmate at South Woods State Prison and charges against 10 guards at Edna Mahan Women’s Correctional Facility for assault allegations and additional allegations of sexual assault.

“These attacks against our incarcerated youth, women and men represent a prison culture of violence and impunity,” said Wood. “All these alleged attacks took place with groups of officers present, suggesting that these actions were met with some level of tolerance and protection.”