A bill sponsored by Assemblyman Declan O’Scanlon eliminating any confusion about the law enforcement authority of state corrections officers was approved by the Assembly. The bill also sponsored by Assemblyman Parker Space, directs the commissioner of personnel to retitle state correctional officers as state correctional police officers, and clarifies their legal powers and authority to carry a weapon.

“This change will help eliminate confusion in the public eye and improve relationships among the law enforcement community,” said O’Scanlon (R-Monmouth). “They aren’t just prison guards. They are state-designated first responders, and law enforcement in every sense of the term. Corrections officers were deployed as police to ground zero, Liberty State Park, Newark Liberty International Airport and other critical locations in the wake of the terrorist attacks of 9/11.”

Misconceptions about the role and authority of corrections officers have led to avoidable confrontations with the public while pursuing escaped prisoners, at hospitals when a prisoner is treated, and during visits to correction facilities.

“When these officers are called to protect the public during emergencies or natural disasters, it is imperative that other officers and the public respect their authority to maintain order and respond to crises,” said O’Scanlon.

Corrections officers undergo the same comprehensive certification by New Jersey’s Police Training Commission that all New Jersey police are required to complete.

““New Jersey is fortunate to be home to well-trained and brave professionals employed at county, state, and federal correctional facilities," said Space (R-Sussex, Warren, Morris). “State Corrections officers have the training, legal authority and responsibility to protect the public and uphold the law,” Space added. “Their duties don’t begin and end at the prison gates. When public safety is on the line, it is vital that all law enforcement officers are on the same page.”