Parents push for video cameras in NJ group homes to deter abuse

TRENTON — A plan to allow video cameras to be installed around group homes has stalled in the Legislative Assembly, though supporters continue to push for it to be revived.

The law project, S1897/A2483cites the 2017 death of Billy Cray, 33, who was found face down on a bloody pillow in his bedroom closet at Devereux Advanced Behavioral Health of New Jersey in Somers Point.

An autopsy concluded Cray died of natural causes, but his mother, Martha, said a detective agreed it was suspicious and that her son had been regularly abused during his 25 years of living in five homes groups across the state. It’s been nearly five years since her death, which she says would be less mysterious – or perhaps prevented by deterrence – if there was a camera in her room.

“I will not let my son die in vain and someone else’s child,” said Cray, a former Roselle Park resident who now lives in Toms River. “Because this bill is not about the death of my son. It’s in his memory, but it’s to save the lives of others.

Optional cameras

The bill would require video cameras to be installed in common areas of group homes for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities age 21 and older, if all residents consent. Common areas include entryways, stairwells, dining areas, and outdoor spaces.

” It’s a choice. Choice of cameras. If you don’t want the camera in your bedroom and you don’t want the camera facing you in the common areas, you don’t have to,” Cray said. ” There is no sound. And it’s a choice. It is not mandatory. »

Residents could also request a video camera in their room, which would be paid for by the family.

“He protects everyone from the disabled person, the special needs caregivers, the agencies,” said Wayne’s Aileen Rivera, an activist since her son was beaten in 2010 at the state’s North Jersey Developmental Center. “It protects everyone because the cameras don’t lie.”

“If the staff is doing their job, they shouldn’t be afraid to have cameras on them,” Cray said.

Not everyone agrees

The legislation is now over two years old and enjoys bipartisan sponsorship.

It went through two Assembly committees in the last session, but was then blocked without a vote by the Plenary Assembly. This session, the bill has not moved in the Senate or the Assembly.

The bill has opponents, including the Alliance for the Well-Being of Citizens with Disabilities and New Jersey Disability Rightswho say it would violate an individual’s privacy and rights.

Rivera said everywhere people go these days there are cameras, even walking down a street past houses with Ring doorbells or shopping in a store.

“We live in a time where there are cameras everywhere,” Rivera said. “It’s like the new normal, and it’s to protect everyone, really.”

The bill is not scheduled for any hearings for the next 10 days, after which the Legislature will likely begin its summer recess and generally won’t continue until after Labor Day.

But Rivera and Cray hope a pressure campaign can get lawmakers to schedule a hearing and vote.

“We’re not going to leave,” Rivera said. “I mean, we are living proof that we will fight until the end to protect this population. We did it with the Steven Komninos law. It was an uphill battle of seven years. We’re not going to stop there either. We’ll just carry on.

Michael Symons is the Statehouse Bureau Chief for New Jersey 101.5. You can reach him at [email protected]

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These are the best hiking spots in New Jersey

A trip to New Jersey doesn’t have to be just the beach. Our state has incredible trails, waterfalls and lakes to enjoy.

From the Pine Barrens to the Appalachian Trail to New Jersey’s hidden gems, you have plenty of options for a great hike. Hiking is a great way to spend time outdoors and enjoy nature, plus it’s a great workout.

Before you hit the trails and explore some of the suggestions from our listeners, I have a few tips on hiking etiquette from the American Hiking Society.

If you descend and meet an uphill hiker, pull to the side and give the uphill hiker some space. An uphill hiker has the right of way unless they stop to catch their breath.

Always stay on the trail, you may see side paths, unless marked as an official trail, avoid them. Going off the trail, you risk damaging the ecosystems around the trail, the plants and wildlife that live there.

You also don’t want to disturb any wildlife you encounter, just keep your distance from wildlife and continue hiking.

Cyclists must yield to hikers and horses. Hikers should also give in to horses, but I don’t know how many horses you’ll encounter on New Jersey trails.

If you plan to bring your dog on your hike, they must be on a leash and be sure to clean up all pet waste.

Finally, pay attention to the weather, if the trail is too muddy, it’s probably best to save your hike for another day.

I asked our listeners for their suggestions on the best hiking spots in New Jersey, check out their suggestions:

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