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Press Release

Bayside State Prison Corrections Officer Arrested for Conspiracy to Violate Civil Rights

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, District of New Jersey

NEWARK, N.J. – A corrections officer at Bayside State Prison in Leesburg, New Jersey, was arrested today for allegedly assaulting and physically punishing inmates, Acting U.S. Attorney Rachael A. Honig announced.

John Makos, 41, of Millville, New Jersey, was charged by complaint with participating in a conspiracy to deprive inmates of civil rights. Makos is scheduled appear this afternoon by videoconference before U.S. Magistrate Judge James B. Clark 3rd.

“Prisoners are entitled to be treated with basic dignity, not pummeled and humiliated at the whim of correctional officers,” Acting U.S. Attorney Honig said. “We once again affirm our commitment to uphold the civil rights of all persons, including those living in a correctional setting.”

“Our investigation alleges that the actions in this case included beatings of people without provocation or justification in violation of their civil rights,” FBI Special Agent in Charge George M. Crouch Jr. said. “A badge is not a license to abuse the power it conveys or to deny the civil rights of the people in one’s custody. It matters not whether the wearer belongs to a federal, state, or local law enforcement agency, or a correctional facility, we all bear the same responsibility to respect and defend the rights of those in our care. Let me be clear, the FBI protects and upholds the rights of all of our citizens. We will go wherever we are needed to weed out illegal activity and arrest the perpetrators.”

According to documents filed in this case and statements made in court:

From at least April 2019 through December 2019, while working as a corrections officer, Makos conspired with others at Bayside State Prison to assault and punish certain inmates in a cruel and arbitrary manner by using excessive force that caused physical injury and pain to the victims. Makos and at least one other corrections officer established an ad hoc regime of physical punishments for actual and perceived violations of the prison’s rules and customs and meted out such punishments in a cruel and degrading manner, at times with the assistance of other inmates. 

Makos and at least one other corrections officer assaulted a victim inmate using what was known to inmates as “the fence treatment:” one of the victim’s arms would be handcuffed to a fence in the back area of the prison’s kitchen and the other arm would be handcuffed to a swinging door, so that the inmate would appear to be crucified. Another inmate, working with Makos and at least one other corrections officer, moved the swinging door so that the victim inmate’s body expanded and collapsed while Makos and at least one other corrections officer delivered closed fist strikes to the victim’s body. 

Makos and at least one other corrections officer also attempted to ensure that their victims would not report the abuse to prison authorities by leading the inmates to believe that if they reported the abuse, they would lose their kitchen jobs, the income associated with those jobs, and the attendant access to better and more plentiful food items, all of which were highly valued within the prison.

The conspiracy to violate civil rights charge carries a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison and a maximum fine of $250,000.

Acting U.S. Attorney Honig credited special agents of the FBI Atlantic City Resident Agency, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge George M. Crouch Jr. in Newark, with the investigation.  She also thanked the New Jersey Department of Corrections, under the direction of Acting Commissioner Victoria Kuhn, for their assistance in the investigation. 

The government is represented by Assistant U.S. Attorney Sara F. Merin of the Special Prosecutions Division in Newark and Trial Attorney Shan Patel of the U.S. Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division.

The charge and allegations contained in the complaint are merely accusations, and the defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.

Updated October 1, 2021

Civil Rights
Press Release Number: 21-443