TRENTON — Attorney General Matthew J. Platkin today announced that a former Senior Correctional Police Officer at the Albert C. Wagner Youth Correctional Facility in Bordentown has pleaded guilty after striking an inmate twice in the back of the head while the prisoner was handcuffed and restrained by other officers. After the assault, the officer attempted to cover up the incident by falsifying his report and convincing another guard to do the same.
Jason Parks, 43, of Gibbstown, N.J., appeared on Dec. 5 before the Honorable Terrance R. Cook, in Burlington County Superior Court and entered a guilty plea to second-degree conspiracy to commit official misconduct.
“Correctional Police Officers take an oath to maintain and secure the facilities where they are assigned,” said Attorney General Platkin. “The actions of the officer were not only unjustified and excessive, they were brutal and vicious. We will continue to hold law enforcement officers accountable to their promise to protect all New Jerseyans – including those in state custody.”
“Part of the Department of Corrections’ mission is running facilities that are not only secure but that also treat those in custody humanely, and this assaultive behavior will not be tolerated,” said Thomas Eicher, Executive Director of the Office of Public Integrity and Accountability (OPIA). “To make matters worse, Parks falsified documents and dragged a fellow correctional police officer into filing a false and misleading report.”
In entering the plea, Parks admitted that on Feb. 19, 2019, while he was on duty at the Albert C. Wagner Youth Correctional Facility, he struck an inmate in the head twice while that inmate was handcuffed with his arms behind him. The inmate was being held by two other correctional police officers and facing away from Parks at the time. The force of the blows knocked the inmate’s head against a wall. That use of force was in clear violation of the Department of Corrections’ Use of Force policy.
After the assault, Parks filed a report in which he claimed the inmate cursed at him and threatened to spit in his face. In his report, Parks stated that he struck the inmate in the mouth with an open hand to prevent him from spitting. Surveillance video from the facility and witness statements contradicted those claims. After the incident, Parks directed another officer to write a report that echoed his own false narrative. In his plea, Parks admitted to conspiring with that officer to commit Official Misconduct and violate the DOC’s rules and policies.
Sentencing is scheduled for March 9, 2023 before Judge Cook. The defendant faces up to a decade in prison.
Under the plea deal, Parks also agreed to permanently forfeit public employment in New Jersey.
Parks was charged in an investigation conducted by OPIA and the Department of Corrections Special Investigations Division.
The case was prosecuted by former Deputy Attorney General Jonathan Gilmore and Deputy Attorneys General Andrew Wellbrock and Sherrod Smith, under the supervision of OPIA Corruption Bureau Chief Peter Lee and OPIA Deputy Director Anthony Picione.
Defense Attorney: Bonnie Geller-Gorman, Esq., Assistant Deputy Public Defender, Burlington County