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Press Release

Bayside State Prison Corrections Officer Sentenced to 30 Months in Prison for Violating Inmates’ Civil Rights

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

CAMDEN, N.J. – A corrections officer at Bayside State Prison in Leesburg, New Jersey, was sentenced today to 30 months in prison 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. Judge Williams imposed the sentence today in Camden federal court.

“Corrections officers are responsible for protecting the civil rights of the people in their custody,” U.S. Attorney Philip R. Sellinger of the District of New Jersey said. “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.”

“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,” 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.”

“Law enforcement officers may enforce the law, but no one is above the law,” FBI Special Agent in Charge James E. Dennehy said. “Makos failed to respect and protect the basic human dignity of the inmates in his care. Let today’s sentencing be a warning to others like Makos: the FBI protects the rights of all citizens, and your badge will not shield you from justice.” 

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 and others at Bayside State Prison agreed to physically assault certain victim-inmates for actual and perceived 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.

In addition to the prison term, Judge Williams sentenced Makos to three years of supervised release and fined him $10,000.

U.S. Attorney Sellinger credited special agents of the FBI Atlantic City Resident Agency, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge Dennehy in Newark, with the investigation leading to today’s sentencing. He also thanked the New Jersey Department of Corrections, under the direction of Commissioner Victoria Kuhn, for its assistance in the investigation.

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

Updated May 24, 2023

Public Corruption
Violent Crime
Press Release Number: 23-155