American Justice Notebook

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N.J. Prison Corrections Officers Sentenced to 30 Months in Prison for Systematically Brutalizing and Abusing Inmates

U.S. Department of Justice

Officials stated that a corrections officer at Bayside State Prison in Leesburg, New Jersey, was sentenced to 30 months in prison for assaulting inmates for “actual, perceived, and fabricated” violations of prison rules.

The beatings resulted in injury to inmates, according to authorities.

John Makos, 42, of Millville, New Jersey, previously pleaded guilty before U.S. District Judge Karen M. Williams to conspiring with others to deprive inmates of their right not to be subjected to cruel and unusual punishment.

“This jail official was complicit in a series of violent assaults on inmates, turning a blind eye as the assaults were carried out as punishment for alleged violations of prison rules,” said Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division. “This sentencing demonstrates that correctional officers who abuse their authority and violate the civil rights of inmates under their custody and control will be held accountable for their actions. The Justice Department is committed to protecting the civil rights of all people, including those held inside our jails and prisons.”

“The defendant sentenced today misused his position of power and permitted the brutal assault of inmates in his custody,” said Assistant Director Luis Quesada of the FBI’s Criminal Investigative Division. “The FBI remains dedicated to uncovering any violation of civil rights and pursuing justice for victims in these cases.”

According to court documents and statements made in court, from at least April 2019 through December 2019, while working as a corrections officer, Makos and others at Bayside State Prison agreed to physically assault certain victim-inmates for “actual, perceived, and fabricated” violations of the prison’s rules, officials stated.

The assaults caused physical injury and pain to the victim-inmates.

These assaults occurred while the victim-inmates were under Makos’ supervision and in areas of the prison’s kitchen that were out of sight of institutional surveillance cameras.

For example, on Dec. 7, 2019, Makos watched and did not attempt to intervene when multiple inmates pinned a victim-inmate to the floor and, while the inmates restrained the victim-inmate, punched the victim-inmate approximately 25 times.

Makos did not report this assault to his supervisors or medical personnel, despite knowing he was required to do so.

Assistant Attorney General Clarke, U.S. Attorney Sellinger, and FBI Assistant Director Quesada made the announcement. 

The FBI Newark Field Office investigated the case.

Assistant U.S. Attorneys Ari B. Fontecchio and Sara Merin of the Special Prosecutions Division for the District of New Jersey and Trial Attorney Shan Patel formerly of the Civil Rights Division’s Criminal Section are prosecuting the case.