NJ county may sue inmate over $2M renovation thanks to toilet-flushing disaster
TOMS RIVER — Having been built 35 years ago, the Ocean County Justice Complex was due renovations. That work is being expedited after an unidentified inmate last week flushed a jumpsuit down the toilet, causing pipes to burst and damaging two floors of the building.
Ocean County Administrator Carl W. Block said the complex was scheduled for upgrades in any case, but the recent damage sped up the timeframe.
"Everything was taken care of but we looked at the long term and said, you know what, we have this update that has to be done anyway, we'll just move it up to now," he said. "The difference is, as is in our new jail, the toilets have sensors on them and it regulates how often it can be flushed. Therefore it prevents any overflow."
Block said the cost of the upgrades to the complex will be around $2 million, but that will also include new epoxy on the floor, replacement of some existing plexiglass, and a partial upgrade of the security system.
While they have not yet identified the inmate who caused the damage, Block said the incident is actively being investigated.
In addition to criminal charges against the perpetrator, Block says the county will also consider a lawsuit to recoup damages.
"You've got to make a statement here. You can't have this. This is unacceptable."
In addition to the part of the jail that is as old as the original complex itself, the county also built a second section five years ago, which connects to the mail building. Having a jail on top of other offices, he says,s "a little unusual."
Block said the county is always looking for the most efficient way to operate the two parts of the jail.
"Right now we could not put them all in one (unit)," he said.
When the new section was built it was populated by what he termed as "low and medium risk prisoners." With the old section broken up into three pods, that part of the jail could at some point be closed one pod at a time. i
"That's all dictated by the population," he said. "I can't predict right now how many people are going to be in jail at any given time. It's affected by the economy. It's affected by bail reform. Bail reform has reduced the number of people that we hold in a county jail, but the number hasn't bottomed out yet."
Block said because the toilets are specially made for jails and require special installation it affects the cost, but so does the cost of running a jail.
"One of the most expensive things we've ever had to build is a jail," he said. "When you build an entire building out of concrete it does cost more."
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Contact reporter Adam Hochron at 609-359-5326 or Adam.Hochron@townsquaremedia.com