Five employees of a company that runs a drug treatment program at a New Jersey prison have been fired after authorizing a skit during which three inmates dressed like Ku Klux Klan members, the Department of Corrections confirmed last week.
The inmates, some of whom are African-American, donned white hats and full-length white sheets during a Jan. 6 skit at the Garden State Youth Correctional Facility in Burlington County, said corrections spokesman Matthew Schuman.
The skit was supposed to portray an episode of "The Jerry Springer Show," a daytime television talk show known for featuring outrageous guests who berate and beat each other before a live studio audience.
During the skit, the three "Klansmen" were being interviewed by another inmate acting as the show's host, the spokesman said. The other inmates in the drug treatment program participated in the skit by acting as the show's studio audience.
The skit "never had a chance to conclude" because several corrections officers walked into the area, became alarmed at what they saw and quickly stopped the show, Schuman said.
It was unclear who had the idea to stage a play requiring inmates to dress as members of the KKK, according to Schuman. He said the skit was "not part of the treatment program" although it was put on at a program meeting, and the five employees of the Gateway Foundation Inc. who participated in it should have known better.
"It was done with the consent of the Gateway employees and they were summarily fired when this came to light," Schuman said. "Gateway was told in no uncertain terms this better not happen again."
Two other Gateway employees who were on duty at the time but opposed the play were not fired, Schuman said. The fired employees were not identified because they worked for a private firm.
Michael Darcy, the president and chief executive of the Chicago-based Gateway Foundation, declined to comment when reached at his office.
The state pays Gateway $4.2 million annually to provide drug treatment for inmates enrolled in 10 different programs at seven prison facilities statewide. The firm uses 90 employees to run those programs, including 28 at the Garden State Youth Correctional Facility.