Officer did nothing as inmate was held down, beaten for his ‘going away party,’ feds say

A corrections officer looked on as inmates restrained and beat a fellow inmate whose release from a New Jersey prison was approaching, federal prosecutors said.

Now, he’s pleaded guilty in connection with the assault.

The beating was the inmate’s “going away party” — a “common form of abuse” facilitated by corrections officers at Bayside State Prison in Leesburg, according to court documents.

Inmates who were nearly finished serving their sentences at the facility were targets for the abuse that involved officers recruiting “other inmates to physically assault the inmate receiving the ‘going away party,’” information filed in court says.

Sometimes officers took part in the assaults, according to prosecutors.

McClatchy News contacted the New Jersey Department of Corrections for comment on Feb. 27 and didn’t receive an immediate response.

Two inmates beaten on the same day

In December 2019, Officer Joshua Hand watched another officer call the inmate into officers’ quarters and initiate a conversation with him before the man was assaulted, according to the information.

Soon after the inmate stepped in the room, the exit door was blocked and several inmates launched an attack, prosecutors said.

Hand did nothing while some of the inmates held the man down to the floor as others punched his torso, arms and legs, according to prosecutors.

The injured inmate didn’t report the assault because he “feared” his upcoming release date would be postponed, and neither did Hand — despite his obligation to do so as an officer, prosecutors said.

Later in the day, Hand watched, but didn’t intervene, as his fellow officer injured another inmate by beating him with a broomstick “within arm’s reach” of him, according to prosecutors.

He was ultimately charged in both assaults, prosecutors said.

On Feb. 26, Hand, a 34-year-old resident of Millville, pleaded guilty to the information that charges him with depriving two inmates of their right not to be subjected to cruel and unusual punishment, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of New Jersey announced in a news release.

McClatchy News contacted Hand’s defense attorney, Louis M. Barbone, for comment on Feb. 27 and didn’t receive an immediate response.

Hand, who no longer works at Bayside State Prison, would watch the “going away party” assaults that occurred away from the facility’s cameras “so that there was no visual record of the assaults,” according to the information.

The same officer who prosecutors said called the first inmate into the officers’ quarters before the beating in December 2019 was accused of beating the other inmate with a broomstick that day, the information says.

“Without provocation,” John Makos “struck (the man) in the legs multiple times with a broomstick” as Hand “remained near the assault and had a reasonable opportunity to intervene,” according to the court filing.

“Instead, Hand watched but did not say or do anything to stop the assault,” the information says.

Hand also didn’t report this beating as required, according to prosecutors.

On May 24, 2023, Makos was sentenced to two years and six months in prison on a charge of conspiring with others to deprive inmates of their right not to be subjected to cruel and unusual punishment, the attorney’s office said in a news release issued that day.

Hand is scheduled to be sentenced on July 2, according to prosecutors.

“Violating the civil rights of others carries a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison and a maximum potential fine of the greater of $250,000, twice the gross amount of pecuniary gain that any person derived from the offense, or twice the gross amount of pecuniary loss that any person suffered from the offense, whichever is greatest,” the attorney’s office said.

Leesburg is about 40 miles southwest of Atlantic City.

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