On March 16, 2018, New Jersey State Correctional Police Officer J. Sheaffer was attacked by an inmate at Juvenile Medium Security Facility in Bordentown.  The responding officers were able to intervene and stopped the attack.  Officer Sheaffer suffered multiple fractures to his face and damage to his teeth.  He received treatment at Robert Wood Johnson Hospital in Hamilton.

PBA Local 105 President, Brian Renshaw, stated:

“Our thoughts and prayers are with State Correctional Police Officer Sheaffer and his family. On behalf of his fellow PBA Local 105 family, we wish him a quick recovery and we thank him for his dedication to a career that can bring a lot of danger. Unfortunately, this is now the second time this month I have had to address one of our officers being attacked by an inmate.  This is becoming too much of an occurrence and I am looking to our state leaders to take action.

 “We have made great progress in addressing the need to fully compensate our State Correctional Officers when they are out on medical leave due to an inmate attack. This month alone we have seen two officers attacked by inmates; this incident and the attack on OFC John Laino earlier this month. These attacks are real and occur all too often and they need to be addressed now. It is long overdue. These are blue collar workers who need their paycheck and cannot afford to lose a day’s pay, let alone weeks or months. This isn’t just about the officer, but about their families.

 “The legislative language for SLI [Sick Leave Injury] benefits needs to be made clear and cover injured officers who are attacked by the hands of an inmate. Our State Correctional Police Officers deserve their full SLI benefits when they are out on extended leave due to an attack by an inmate, period.  I will fight to make sure our members and their families are fully compensated should this sort of tragedy ever happen to them. They fight for their state, and I will fight for them.”

 Sick Leave Injury (SLI) benefits are different from Workers’ Compensation Temporary Disability Benefits.  The Workers’ Compensation benefits (full wages for up to 6 months) are triggered when an officer suffers bodily injury from an inmate under the officer’s custody and during the course of performance of officer’s duties.  However, on January 9, 2018, Assembly Bill A823 was introduced to reinstate SLI to any Corrections and Juvenile Justice Officer who “…sustains an injury caused by and arising from direct contact with inmates in the performance of the officer’s duties” (See A823).  This legislative action by the New Jersey Assembly must generate additional support in the Senate to become a law.

Sherri Ruggieri is the managing editor of Empire State News. A practicing attorney for over 20 years, Ms. Ruggieri is also chairperson of Edison Township’s Planning Board. Additionally, she has served as a college professor, with nearly a decade of experience in teaching law and political science courses.