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Cumberland County commissioner director calls state's jail lawsuit 'particularly offensive'

Cumberland County commissioner director calls state's jail lawsuit 'particularly offensive'

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Cumberland County Commissioner Director Joseph Derella called a lawsuit by the state Office of the Public Defender against the county regarding its jail plans “particularly offensive.”

Derella claims the state is pushing for the construction of a $65 million jail as opposed to the county’s plan to house detainees in underused facilities in Atlantic and Burlington counties.

“As the litigation has progressed, it has become increasingly clear that the stated basis of the suit, to guarantee appropriate opportunities and accommodations for attorney-client consultation, is simply a pretext to prevent New Jersey counties from using shared services for correctional facilities,” he said in a statement Monday.

The director added that the governor and state Legislature have made shared services a priority to address the tax burden, and the plan to use these out-of-county facilities, in addition to the construction of a holding facility adjacent to the courthouse in Bridgeton, will generate $8 million to $10 million in savings the first year and “millions thereafter for Cumberland County taxpayers.”

“It is particularly offensive for a group of lawyers to cynically reject every attempt we have made to accommodate their needs only to find out that nothing short of a new jail will satisfy them,” Derella said. “I am confident that the court will ultimately determine that our plan to house our detainees in out-of-county correctional facilities more than adequately addresses the needs of defense counsel to consult with their clients and rule in favor of the taxpayers of Cumberland County.”

Deputy Public Defender Fletcher Duddy declined to comment on the new-jail proposal but said the plan to move inmates out of the county could have adverse effects.

“The plan would really significantly impact the ability of the OPD attorneys in Cumberland County to provide effective assistance of counsel to their clients if their clients are housed in Mays Landing, 30 miles away,” Duddy said.

Duddy said a trial in the suit, filed in November, is set to begin March 23.

Contact Ahmad Austin:

609-272-7404

AAustin@pressofac.com

Twitter @ACPressAustin

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