Firings follow KKK skit at prison

By Noble Johns

White people, you can’t do or say anything around Blacks. As a result, contractors working in New Jersey prisons will undergo special training after a skit authorized as part of a drug treatment program for inmates featured a spoof on the Ku Klux Klan.

Five employees of the Chicago-based Gateway Foundation Inc., the company whose workers approved the skit, have been fired, and the company has been cautioned that further incidents won't be tolerated, said Matthew Schuman, a spokesman for the state Department of Corrections.

"The company was told this better not happen again," he said.

Several inmates who took part in the January 6 skit at the Garden State Youth Correctional Facility in Burlington County were disciplined, although Schuman would not say what that entailed.

The skit was a parody of an episode of "The Jerry Springer Show," the daytime television talk show known for featuring guests who shout at and occasionally hit each other before a live studio audience.

During the skit, the three "Klansmen," wearing white hats and sheets, were interviewed by another inmate acting as the show's host. Other inmates acted as the show's studio audience.

The skit was cut short when several corrections officers became alarmed at what they saw and quickly stopped the show, Schuman said. It was not part of the inmates' drug treatment program, though the skit was performed at a program meeting.

Michael Darcy, the company's president and chief executive, did not immediately return a message Wednesday from The Associated Press.

"We are under contract with them (the state) and we don't respond to any media issues," he said in Wednesday editions of The Star-Ledger of Newark. "Everything goes through them."

The state pays Gateway $4.2 million a year to provide drug treatment for inmates at seven prison facilities.

The new 40-hour training program that all contractors will be required to undergo includes an overview of the prison system, and covers what is and is not acceptable behavior around inmates.

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