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Morris County Sheriff James M. Gannon and Correctional Facility Host Leadership Morris Class on Criminal Justice

The Morris County Sheriff’s Office on March 14 hosted a Leadership Morris class of business and non-profit professionals, shattering some preconceptions of how a jail can look and run with a tour of the Morris County Correctional Facility.

Morris County Sheriff James M. Gannon speaks to Leadership Morris class
Morris County Sheriff James M. Gannon addresses a Leadership Morris class hosted by the Morris County Correctional Facility on March 14.

“I was surprised. It’s a state-of-the-art facility and definitely money well-spent,” said Leadership Morris student Daniel Umana, a trustee of the non-profit Family Promise of Morris County which runs an emergency shelter and programs to end homelessness.

“I didn’t think I’d see a recreation pod, or that much medical staff, or all the different programs. I think they’re doing a great job setting up former inmates for the future so they don’t commit crimes again,” Umana said.

Leadership Morris, a community education program of the Morris County Chamber of Commerce, holds 10-month classes for business professionals and executives of non-profit agencies to teach them about the challenges, institutions and charitable opportunities in the county.

Morris County Corrections Sgt. Andrew Bileci gives a tour of the Morris County Correctional Facility
Morris County Corrections Sgt. Andrew Bileci gives a tour of the Morris County Correctional Facility to a Leadership Morris class on March 14, 2019.

Morris County Sheriff James M. Gannon addressed the class of 28 Leadership Morris students during a lunch at the correctional facility that was followed by a tour of the 19-year-old facility in Morris Township led by Bureau of Corrections Sgt. Andrew Bileci, Corporal Rodney Furby and Corrections Officer Brian Rzucidlo.

“This facility is second to none. I would argue it’s the best facility in the state and arguably the best facility in the country,” Sheriff Gannon told the class.

He said the state Department of Corrections gave the correctional facility, built to house 524 inmates in eight housing pods, a score of 100 in its last two inspections and the American Correctional Association also gave the facility scores of 100 on both mandatory and non-mandatory standards.

Morris County now is negotiating with Sussex County to accept Sussex inmates under an arrangement that will financially benefit Morris County, Sheriff Gannon said.

Morris County Corrections Sgt. Andrew Bileci gives a tour of the Morris County Correctional Facility to a Leadership Morris Class
Morris County Corrections Sgt. Andrew Bileci gives a tour of the Morris County Correctional Facility to a Leadership Morris class on March 14, 2019.

The Morris County Correctional Facility, he said, is uniquely poised to accept the inmates because the facility is modern, has the cell space, and offers an array of programs to address substance abuse, anger management, educational and medical needs that assist inmates in leading law-abiding lives upon discharge.

“We’re looking to provide appropriate services so they can leave here better than they were when they came in,” Sheriff Gannon said.

The sheriff’s signature program, the Hope One mobile substance abuse resource and recovery vehicle, was launched on April 3, 2017, and led to the creation of a Hope Wing at the correctional facility where inmates trying to recover from addiction receive counseling, guidance on repairing relationships, anger management and Vivitrol, the medication that helps prevent alcohol and drug relapses. As of March 14, 16 inmates were assigned to the Hope Wing and nearly 100 individuals have been in the wing since June 2017, he said.

“If we don’t change the behavior or give them opportunities in some way, we can’t expect them to change. As the sheriff, I have a lot of responsibilities but one of them is to curb recidivism somehow. If we don’t work on their issues, then we can’t expect them not to come in through your bedroom window,” Sheriff Gannon said.

Morris County Sheriff's Office Hope One vehicle at the Morris County Correctional Facility.
The Morris County Sheriff’s Office’s Hope One mobile substance abuse resource and recovery vehicle is visited by a Leadership Morris class on March 14. From bottom, Daniel Umana, trustee of Family Promise of New Jersey, Family Promise of New Jersey Joann Bjornson, and Morris County Sheriff’s Office Corporal Erica Valvano, who manages the Hope One program.

In his tour of the correctional facility, Sgt. Bileci led the group into a housing pod undergoing renovations, the enormous kitchen where inmates are responsible for preparing meals, the intake unit, and laundry.

Sgt. Bileci credited the direct supervision model – under which one corrections officer supervises a pod housing up to 64 inmates – and its numerous programs for helping to maintain peace at the facility because they keep inmates mentally and socially occupied.

Corrections officers, he said, speak firmly and decently to inmates and assaults on corrections officers are never tolerated.

“Our greatest weapon is the way we talk to inmates,” Sgt. Bileci said. “If you treat someone like a human being, they’ll act like a human being. If you treat someone like an animal, they’ll act like an animal.”

Morris County Sheriff James M. Gannon with Leadership Morris class
Morris County Sheriff James M. Gannon addresses a Leadership Morris class at the Morris County Correctional Facility on March 14, 2019.

 

The Leadership Morris class also got a first-hand look at the Hope One vehicle that stopped outside the correctional facility after a five-hour stop in Boonton. Morris County Sheriff’s Office Corporal Erica Valvano was on-board. Hope One’s partners include Family Promise of Morris County, Morris County CARES, which provides certified peer recovery specialists and Narcan training, and the Mental Health Association of Essex and Morris counties.

Thursday’s Leadership Morris class, called “Criminal Justice Day,” included a morning session at the Morris County courthouse where students heard a presentation on the opioid epidemic in Morris County from Morris County Prosecutor Fredric M. Knapp and Chief Assistant Prosecutor Brad Seabury before spending the afternoon at the correctional facility.

 

 

Proud presence by Morris County Sheriff’s Office at annual St. Patrick’s Day Parade in Morristown

Proud presence by Morris County Sheriff's Office at annual St. Patrick's Day Parade in Morristown

 

Morris County Sheriff James M. Gannon, sworn officers and their families, civilian employees and youth members of the Sheriff’s Office Explorers Post #140 proudly participated Saturday, March 9, in the annual Morris County St. Patrick’s Day parade, one of the county’s largest festive events.

Proud presence by Morris County Sheriff's Office at annual St. Patrick's Day Parade in Morristown

Under bright sunshine, the Sheriff’s Office’s Honor Guard marched as they carried flags and two officers rode motorcycles while other officers drove a command vehicle and crime scene investigation section vehicle.

 

Sheriff Gannon and more than 30 sworn officers from the Sheriff’s Office bureaus of corrections and law enforcement, family members and nine Explorers walked the mile-long parade route behind the Morris County Police Pipes & Drums band, past tens of thousands of parade-goers lining the sidewalks.

Proud presence by Morris County Sheriff's Office at annual St. Patrick's Day Parade in Morristown

Members of the Sheriff’s Emergency Response Team, Bomb Squad and K-9 Unit assisted Morristown Bureau of Police and other law enforcement agencies in maintaining security at the parade.

The Rev. Patrick “Paddy” O’Donovan, pastor of Notre Dame of Mt. Carmel Church in Cedar Knolls, was the 2019 Grand Marshal of the parade. Father O’Donovan hails from County Limerick in Ireland and has been a priest in New Jersey for more than 40 years.

Proud presence by Morris County Sheriff's Office at annual St. Patrick's Day Parade in Morristown

“I think it’s great. Here we are celebrating the Irish but this is all about Proud presence by Morris County Sheriff's Office at annual St. Patrick's Day Parade in Morristownfamily and faith and community. It’s for all the people,” Sheriff Gannon said.

Morris County Sheriff’s Office Hope One mobile substance abuse recovery program attracts Bergen County’s attention

Interest in the Morris County Sheriff’s Office’s Hope One mobile substance abuse recovery vehicle is intensifying, with two undersheriffs from the Bergen County Sheriff’s Office seeking guidance from Morris County Sheriff James M. Gannon on how to replicate the program in their 70-town county.

Morris County Sheriff James M. Gannon and colleagues
From left, Morris County Sheriff James M. Gannon, Bergen County Sheriff’s Office Undersheriff David Borzotta, Bergen County Executive Undersheriff Vincent Quatrone, and Morris County Sheriff’s Office Undersheriff Mark Spitzer.

Sheriff Gannon, who launched Hope One on April 3, 2017, met Wednesday with Bergen County Sheriff’s Office Executive Undersheriff Vincent Quatrone and Undersheriff David Borzotta, who work under the leadership of Bergen County Sheriff Anthony Cureton.

“That’s awesome,” Undersheriff Borzotta said of the 6,200 contacts Hope One’s staff has made with individuals in the past 23 months during its twice-weekly stops in Morris County communities known to be populated by at-risk people in danger of dying by heroin and opioid overdoses.

Passaic County officials have expressed interest in Hope One. The city of Newark in December launched Hope One-Newark. Officials from the Burlington County Sheriff and Prosecutor’s Offices visited Hope One in January, while Hope One duplicates have been started in the last year by the Cape May Prosecutor’s Office, and the Monmouth and Atlantic County Sheriff’s Offices.

“This is like a roving helping hand,” Undersheriff Borzotta said. “We’re wondering what is going to make us feel like we’re gaining ground and I think this is it.”

Morris County Sheriff's Office Hope One vehicle
The Morris County Sheriff’s Office’s Hope One mobile substance abuse recovery and resource vehicle at a fundraising event in Wayne, NJ

“People are supportive of the program. The reality is, we’ve had nothing but great support,” Sheriff Gannon said.

Sheriff Gannon and the Bergen County undersheriffs agreed the crisis is killing people of all ages, ethnicities and socio-economic backgrounds. Sheriff Gannon advised them that he brainstormed with substance abuse and mental health experts as soon as he took office in January 2017, and by April 2017 had repurposed a sidelined SWAT vehicle using $15,000 in drug forfeiture money.

The Hope One vehicle was painted white and purple – a color associated with recovery – and stripped of any law enforcement symbols. Staffed by Morris County Sheriff’s Office Corporal Erica Valvano, a certified peer recovery specialist from Morris County CARES and a mental health professional from the Essex and Morris County Mental Health Association, Hope One spends five hours twice a week parked in locations in Morris County, offering free Narcan training, recovery and resource information to anyone who asks.

Hope One staff have trained more than 1,600 people how to administer Narcan, the nasal spray that reverses an opioid overdose. People have been immediately transported to detox facilities from Hope One, and assisted in entering in-patient facilities within a few days of speaking to Hope One staff.