Passaic County Jail, Paterson, New Jersey
April 5, 2020

A day after a prisoner tested positive for COVID-19 and was placed in quarantine, at least 6 other prisoners refused to follow orders to return to their cells. Sheriff’s deputies allege that the prisoners grabbed sheets and set a series of small fires.

According to deputies, it was unclear what demands the inmates were making. “Efforts were made by the jail staff, including myself, to deescalate the situation,” Deputy Richard H. Berdnik said. “Inmates started small fires and tried to interfere with jail operations.”

The standoff lasted 5 hours, ending only when deputies wearing protective gear stormed the area where prisoners were protesting, dousing the fires, spraying them with pepper spray as they physically forced them back in to their cells.

As of early April, 170 correctional officers or other staff and 50 inmates or federal detainees have tested positive for COVID-19 in New Jersey. On March 22, in response to the crisis, New Jersey started thinning out the population in the county jails by granting temporary releases of prisoners who are serving sentences for non-violent offenses or who meet certain criteria based on the discretion of the state’s attorney general. The state expects to release up to 1,000 prisoners.



6 Passaic County Jail inmates charged after beds were set on fire during riot“,, April 5, 2020

Inmate at Passaic County Jail tests positive for coronavirus“,, April 3, 2020

COVID-19 spreads among NJ jail, prison staff and inmates“, Jersey 101.5, April 7, 2020

Here’s NJ’s plan for releasing up to 1,000 inmates as COVID-19 spreads Read More: NJ’s plan for releasing up to 1,000 inmates as COVID-19 spreads“, Jersey 101.5, March 23, 2020


Article Published: 4/9/2020

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