Recently, New Jersey State Commissioner of Corrections Gary Lanigan
addressed Criminal Justice students in Professor John Paitakes'
Community Supervision class, as well as students in Psychology and
Sociology, on the New Jersey Prison System and issues around probation
Professor John Paitakes, Commissioner Gary Lanigan and students
Commissioner Lanigan is in charge of the 13 prisons in New Jersey's
Corrections System and has more than three decades of experience in the
criminal justice and financial management realms, since his appointment
"It's time to set aside the number of ancient myths about violence
and prisons as displayed on popular shows," said Commissioner Lanigan. "We do a lot of things differently. The government emphasizes on
programming, setting up an environment for re-entry."
He informed students that the current re-entry rate in NJ is ahead of
the curve and below the national average. While there is no real answer
to the state’s success on re-entry, Commissioner Lanigan said building
more jails is not the best option because it’s not cost effective.
"The cost of incarceration is high. It’s up around 53,000 dollars a year," he added.
Rather, the state's goal is to start the re-entry process as soon as
possible. According to Commissioner Lanigan, "Re-entry starts at entry."
Students also inquired about important issues such as gang violence,
contraband's, and what New Jersey prisons have done to address
Professor John Paitakes, Chief of Staff for the Deptartment of Corrections, Judith A. Lang, and New Jersey State Commissioner of Corrections Gary Lanigan
Adedeji Akere who has toured the Northern State Prison through an
opportunity with the Morris County Prosecutor’s Office Career
Development Workshop said sitting in on Commissioner Lanigan’s
discussion further increased his interest to pursue a career as a state
trooper after law school.
"I was excited about the guest speaker because this was a real life
experience to speak with the person in charge of the entire NJ Prison
System," said Akere. "He is the top."
Akere, a junior studying criminal justice, hopes to one day help people who have been oppressed.
Senior Angela Zorro-Juarez is on a similar journey. "Law runs in my
family. It follows me," she said. Zorro-Juarez plans to join the air
force to be a criminal investigator after graduation.
Her goal is to help people and she believes networking with
Commissioner Lanigan was a perfect start. "The volunteer opportunities
he shared will help me to achieve my aspirations," she added.
Professor Paitakes, a retired NJ probation officer and former state
Parole Board member, has invited many guest speakers to his classes.
"The intent is to make it realistic," he said. "Let students connect theory with reality."
Paitakes strongly believes inviting guest speakers is also an
opportunity to broaden student perspective on available internships and
After speaking with the commissioner, students interested in volunteering at the prison provided their contact information.
"The classroom is a great start," said Paitakes. "But, my goal is to prepare them for real work."
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