A corrections officer at Bayside State Prison in Leesburg, New Jersey, was sentenced to 30 months in prison followed by three years of supervised release and required to pay a $10,000 fine for agreeing with others to physically assault inmates for actual, perceived and fabricated violations of the prison’s rules and customs in a manner that resulted in injury to the inmates.
John Makos, 42, of Millville, New Jersey, previously pleaded guilty before U.S. District Judge Karen M. Williams to conspiring with others to deprive inmates of their right not to be subjected to cruel and unusual punishment.
“This jail official was complicit in a series of violent assaults on inmates, turning a blind eye as the assaults were carried out as punishment for alleged violations of prison rules,” said Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division. “This sentencing demonstrates that correctional officers who abuse their authority and violate the civil rights of inmates under their custody and control will be held accountable for their actions. The Justice Department is committed to protecting the civil rights of all people, including those held inside our jails and prisons.”
“Corrections officers are responsible for protecting the civil rights of the people in their custody,” said U.S. Attorney Philip R. Sellinger for the District of New Jersey. “Incarcerated persons may have broken the law, but equal treatment is one of our country’s founding principles, and civil rights do not cease to exist at a prison’s gates. This defendant allowed incarcerated persons under his care to be brutalized and abused his authority as a law enforcement officer. Today’s sentence is another reminder that civil rights violations by law enforcement officials will not be tolerated.”
“The defendant sentenced today misused his position of power and permitted the brutal assault of inmates in his custody,” said Assistant Director Luis Quesada of the FBI’s Criminal Investigative Division. “The FBI remains dedicated to uncovering any violation of civil rights and pursuing justice for victims in these cases.”
According to court documents and statements made in court, from at least April 2019 through December 2019, while working as a corrections officer, Makos and others at Bayside State Prison agreed to physically assault certain victim-inmates for actual, perceived, and fabricated violations of the prison’s rules and customs. The assaults caused physical injury and pain to the victim-inmates. These assaults took place while the victim-inmates were under Makos’ supervision and in areas of the prison’s kitchen that were out of sight of institutional surveillance cameras. For example, on Dec. 7, 2019, Makos watched and did not attempt to intervene when multiple inmates pinned a victim-inmate to the floor and, while the inmates restrained the victim-inmate, punched the victim-inmate approximately 25 times. Makos did not report this assault to his supervisors or medical personnel, despite knowing he was required to do so.
Assistant Attorney General Clarke, U.S. Attorney Sellinger and FBI Assistant Director Quesada made the announcement.
The FBI Newark Field Office investigated the case, with assistance from the New Jersey Department of Corrections.
Assistant U.S. Attorneys Ari B. Fontecchio and Sara Merin of the Special Prosecutions Division for the District of New Jersey and Trial Attorney Shan Patel formerly of the Civil Rights Division’s Criminal Section are prosecuting the case.