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'FIGHT CLUB': NJ Prison Officer Who Brutalized Inmates Sentenced To 2½ Years In Federal Prison

By Jerry DeMarco,

15 days ago
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Bayside State Prison Photo Credit: Tracey D. Syphax

John Makos, 42, of Millville, took advantage of areas in the kitchen at Bayside State Prison in Leesburg out of the view of surveillance cameras where inmates during and after their work shifts were beaten by him, colleagues and fellow prisoners, federal authorities said.

In one instance 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,” U.S. Attorney Philip R. Sellinger said.

“Makos did not report this assault to his supervisors or medical personnel, despite knowing he was required to do so,” the U.S. attorney said.

Makos was sued by several inmates who accused him of assaulting them and others as part of an abusive environment that they and federal authorities said he presided over at the medium-security men’s prison.

An FBI complaint on file in U.S. District Court in Camden charged Makos with assaulting – and injuring -- prisoners in a “cruel, unusual, arbitrary, and capricious manner,” denying them their civil rights.

Fellow officers were involved, authorities said, but Makos was the only one charged criminally.

Makos – who’d worked as a correctional officer at Bayside since 2006 before he was suspended without pay amid the investigation -- justified the beatings by accusing the victims of some behavioral infraction or other, federal authorities said.

Several times, Makos took a particular inmate to a secluded kitchen area where he made the victim “place his hands behind his head, spread his legs, and face away" from Makos, the FBI complaint says.

He then would “repeatedly punch" the victim, it says.

In another instance, federal authorities said, Makos stood by as several inmates pinned a fellow prisoner to the floor and punched him more than two dozen times.

Makos tried to keep victims from reporting the abuse by, in part, “holding the status of the inmates' relatively desirable jobs in the prison's kitchens over their heads," according to the complaint.

The attacks were “orchestrated” in the prison’s kitchen, it says, “out of sight of surveillance cameras.”

Authorities installed a hidden camera at Bayside, however, as part of an investigation that led to the charges.

Makos ended up taking a deal from the government rather than face the potential consequences of a federal trial, pleading guilty last November to civil rights conspiracy in exchange for leniency.

Makos must serve the entire 30-month sentence because there’s no parole in the federal prison system. In addition to the prison term, U.S. District Judge Karen M. Williams sentenced him on Wednesday, May 24, to three years of supervised release and fined him $10,000.

“Corrections officers are responsible for protecting the civil rights of the people in their custody,” Sellinger 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.”

Sellinger credited special agents of the FBI Atlantic City Resident Agency with the investigation leading to the plea and sentencing, secured by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Ari B. Fontecchio and Sara Merin of his Special Prosecutions Division in Newark and Trial Attorney Shan Patel, formerly of the U.S. Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division.

He also thanked the New Jersey Department of Corrections for its assistance.

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