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    NJ Advance Media previews the NJSIAA State wrestling championships. Some of the wrestlers featured are: Anthony Clark, Delbarton; Sammy Alvarez, St. Joseph (Mont).; Antonio Mininno, Gateway-Woodbury; Robert Howard, Bergen Catholic; JoJo Aragona, Pope John; Nicholas Raimo, Hanover Park; Patrick Glory, Delbarton; Michael O'Malley, Hasbrouck Heights; Antonio Mininno, Gateway-Woodbury.

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    Asylum seekers and other immigrants in New Jersey detention facilities complain about bad food, dirty water and inadequate medical care, according to a new report.

    New Jersey's immigrant detention facilities are giving detainees food with maggots, dirty drinking water, too few pairs of underwear and shoddy medical and mental health care, according to a scathing new report by a human rights group.

    Members of Human Rights First, a nonprofit and nonpartisan group that advocates for immigrants, toured three immigrant detention centers in New Jersey and interviewed more than 100 detained immigrants for their study, according to the report.

    Asylum seekers and other immigrants are being held under "harsh and inhumane conditions" at the Elizabeth Contract Detention Facility, the Essex County Correctional Facility and the Hudson County Correctional Facility, the report concluded.

    "In New Jersey, ICE has essentially stopped granting parole to asylum seekers, with a few exceptions, leading to unnecessary, lengthy, and prolonged detention," said Eleni Bakst, the lead researcher for Human Rights First's report. "This, coupled with inadequate and delayed medical and mental health care and often inhumane conditions, exacerbates the suffering of traumatized individuals, many of whom faced violence or persecution in their home countries."

    ICE arrests surge in N.J. under Trump. Here's why.

    The U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency, or ICE, uses detention facilities to house both refugees seeking asylum in the U.S. and those suspected of violating immigration law. Some of those held in the facilities are eventually granted asylum to live in the U.S., but are held under prison-like conditions until their cases are heard, the report said.

    ICE officials responded to the group's findings with a statement: "While the agency has not had an opportunity to review the report, ICE remains committed to ensuring that all individuals in our custody are held and treated in a safe, secure and humane manner and that they have access to legal counsel, visitation, recreation and quality medical, mental health and dental care."

    CoreCivic, the private prison contractor that runs the Elizabeth Detention Facility, also said it is committed to the humane treatment of people in its facility.

    "CoreCivic is deeply committed to providing a safe, humane and appropriate environment for those entrusted to our care, while also delivering cost-effective solutions to the challenges our government partners face," said Jonathan Burns, a CoreCivic spokesman. "We work in close coordination with our partners at ICE to ensure the well-being of the detainees at our ICE-contracted detention facilities."

    Among the findings in the "Ailing Justice: New Jersey" report:

    • ICE detainees are held under civil, not criminal, law. But, the legal experts who toured the New Jersey detention facilities said some of the centers were worse than criminal prisons. Some of the detainees were held for up to 18 months without a decision on their cases.
    • The "outdoor" recreation area at the Elizabeth and Essex detention facilities is a dark, enclosed indoor room with a barred-over skylight that lets in some fresh air.
    • The Elizabeth detention facility is a former warehouse with years of dust buildup and insufficient ventilation that causes allergies and asthma for those living there.
    • Maggots were found in food and in the shower area of the Elizabeth center, detainees said. There were also complaints in the Elizabeth facility about discolored and bleach-tasting water in the water fountains. Those held in Essex said they run out of water in their units and the tap water is undrinkable.
    • Women held in the Elizabeth center said they were given two or three pairs of underwear for the week and an insufficient number of santiary pads. Detainees in the other facilties also said they were given insufficient or damaged clothing.
    • Several people interviewed said they were placed in solitary confinement unjustly as punishment for filing grievances, requesting medical assistance, participating in hunger strikes or refusing to stand in court.
    • The medical staff at the detention centers failed to provide basic care or medication, according to numerous anectdotal reports from detainees. Others reported little or no mental health care. In some cases, detainees were offered "bibliotherapy," which involves giving people motivational books instead of psychotherapy.

    Burns, the CoreCivic spokesman, noted the private contractor does not control how long the federal government holds detainees at the Elizabeth facility and the company does not oversee health care at the center. ICE officials also work full-time at the detention center and have day-to-day supervision of CoreCivic's administration of the Elizabeth facility, he said.

    The report also raised concerns about suicide prevention in the immigrant detention facilities. The Hudson detention center, which placed suicidal detainees in sparce medical isolation units referred to as "suicide rooms," has had three suicides since January 2016, the report said.

    "Most men and (women) interviewed report not seeking mental health services to avoid being placed in the 'suicide room.' The room is perceived as a completely empty room, cold, dirty and with no basic comforts," Cristina Muniz de la Pena, a psychologist who toured the Hudson facility with Human Rights First, said in the report.

    The report did not include the full names or other details of the detainees making the allegations of inadequate medical care, bad food or other harsh conditions at the facilities. 

    Human Rights First released the New Jersey report on the same day the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in a 5-3 decision that immigrants in detention are not entitled to a bond hearing, even if they have been in custody for months or years.

    Two lower courts said immigrant detainees must be given a custody hearing within six months. The case now goes back to the federal appeals court to decide whether the detention rules violate the U.S. Constitution.

    The American Civil Liberties Union, which represented the detainees in the Supreme Court case, said the Trump administration is increasing the number of immigrants held without a hearing.

    "The Trump administration is trying to expand immigration detention to record-breaking levels as part of its crackdown on immigrant communities. We have shown through this case that when immigrants get a fair hearing, judges often release them based on their individual circumstances," said Ahilan Arulanantham, the ACLU attorney who argued the Supreme Court case, said in a statement.

    ICE arrests have surged in New Jersey since President Donald Trump's inauguration.

    There were 3,189 arrests in fiscal year 2017 in ICE's Newark region, which encompasses all of New Jersey, according to data released by the agency. That is a 42 percent increase compared to the previous year.

    It is unclear exactly how many people are currently being held in ICE facilities in New Jersey.

    The Elizabeth Detention Facility has space for about 300 people, according to the Human Rights First report. The Essex and Hudson facilities, where ICE rents space in the county jails for detainees, can hold about 700 people in ICE custody as well as inmates awaiting hearings in criminal cases.

    Kelly Heyboer may be reached at Follow her on Twitter @KellyHeyboer. Find her at KellyHeyboerReporter on Facebook.

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    Highlights from the state tournament.

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    Newark brought its street sweeping services in-house this month after ending its contract with a private company. The transition has been rough. For weeks the complaints -- and the filth -- have piled up.

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    The flight landed at Lehigh Valley International Airport and the passengers were taken back to Newark by bus

    A United Airlines flight heading from Newark to Los Angeles was diverted Tuesday night to Lehigh Valley International Airport after a report of smoke in a lavatory.

    Records indicate the Boeing 757 left Newark Liberty International at 8:38 p.m.

    No one was hurt, but passengers were taken off the plane at the Hanover Township, Lehigh County airport.

    "The flight landed safely and we transported customers back to Newark via bus," a United spokeswoman said Wednesday morning in an email.

    Passengers were provided with hotel rooms and United is "helping customers resume their travels as quickly as possible today," the spokeswoman said.

    The plane remained Wednesday morning at the local airport, Lehigh-Northampton Airport Authority spokesman Colin Riccobon said. While passenger planes that size don't fly out of LVIA, the runways can accommodate them, Riccobon added.

    Emergency apparatus was on airport property in case there were problems, Riccobon said.

    There's still work to be done, the United spokeswoman said.

    "Our maintenance team will inspect the aircraft to determine the cause," she said. "We apologize to our customers for this inconvenience."

    Tony Rhodin may be reached at Follow him on Twitter @TonyRhodin. Find on Facebook.

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    What you need to know from the state tournament

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    A Superior Court judge denied the prosecutor's request to detain the teen, and instead ordered the 18-year-old placed under home detention. Watch video

    Investigators probing a Nutley teenager's alleged social media threat against the local high school discovered an ominous Instagram video wasn't the first disturbing media he'd shared online, an Essex County assistant prosecutor told a judge on Wednesday.

    During their investigation, Assistant Prosecutor Alexander Albu said, detectives discovered a video Joseph Rafanello, 18, had posted online showing a replica of a school built in the popular video game Minecraft, in which online players can construct their own worlds out of Lego-like blocks.

    In the video, a player's avatar can be seen walking through the virtual school, complete with lockers, Albu said. At some point in the video, he said, the avatar opened fire on people in front of the lockers.

    Officials' discovery of Rafanello's Instagram video post, which featured footage both of him firing a gun at a shooting range and a picture of a school building, prompted a daylong closure of all district schools on Feb. 16.

    joseph-rafanello.jpgJoseph Rafanello (Ed Murray | NJ Advance Media for 

    At the same hearing Wednesday, Rafanello's defense attorney, Alexandra Briggs of the state Public Defender's Office, said there was "absolutely no evidence that my client is the person who created (the Instagram) video," only that he had posted it on his account.

    Superior Court Judge Peter V. Ryan ultimately declined prosecutors' motion to keep Rafanello jailed pending trial on a charge of creating a false public alarm, but ordered him placed on home detention with an electronic monitoring device.

    In addition to the Minecraft video, Albu said, investigators found a number of other social media messages in which Rafanello joked about death or shared news of mass shootings.

    School officials have said Rafanello will not be allowed to return.

    "Frankly," Albu told the court, "we're lucky that we're here on a false public alarm today, and it's not something else."

    Briggs said she had received numerous letters of support for Rafanello, including from the minister of his church, who wrote that he had known the teenager for years and never had a problem with his behavior.

    The attorney said Briggs had been accepted to a program at Bergen Community College to study game testing, which he wanted to pursue as a career. 

    To detain Rafanello, she said, would be "I think, a big injustice."

    As a condition of Rafanello's pre-trial release, Ryan barred him from having any access to firearms. Albu said Rafanello's father, a gun owner, has voluntarily turned over his firearms to the Nutley Police Department for safekeeping.

    The judge on Wednesday denied a further request by the prosecutor that Rafanello's father also be made to turn over to police his firearms purchaser ID card.

    Rafanello's parents left the courthouse without commenting after the hearing.

    Thomas Moriarty may be reached at Follow him on Twitter at @ThomasDMoriarty. Find on Facebook.

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    The South Orange Maplewood School District's policies have led to black students being placed in lower achieving classes, a lawsuit alleges. Watch video

    Inside the suburban South Orange Maplewood School District, parents for years have accused the district of systemically depriving African American students of access to challenging classes. 

    Now they've taken their grievances to federal court. 

    The Black Parents Workshop filed a civil rights lawsuit against the district on Tuesday alleging the decades-long practice of placing students in tiered classes based on test scores or their perceived abilities (known as leveling) was discriminatory and disproportionately hurt African American students.

    The suit also accuses the district of maintaining de facto segregation with one predominantly black elementary school and five elementary schools that are overwhelming white. That percolates through to the district's high school, where black students are more likely to be placed in lower-level courses when compared to their white peers, the suit said. 

    "What we have in the South Orange Maplewood School District is a public school system where children are segregated by race in its elementary schools, (and) experience few black teachers in their classrooms," said Walter Fields, chairman of the parent advocacy group that filed the suit.

    "African-American children are subjected to punishment for offenses that their white peers also commit but receive lesser punishment, and where all students walk through the same front door at Columbia High School but are then segregated by race in classrooms due to the district's embrace of tracking and leveling."

    A spokeswoman for the district said it had not yet been served with the lawsuit and said the district could not comment on pending litigation. 

    During a school board meeting last week, the district moved to eliminate 11 levels in math and science courses at the high school and middle schools, instead offering academic or honors courses for most core STEM classes.

    At the meeting, Interim Superintendent Thomas Ficarra said it was time to start making changes, given that 2016-17 data show 65 percent of African American students were enrolled in the two lowest levels of Geometry, and none met expectations on the state standardized exam. 

    About 7,000 students attend the school district from South Orange and neighboring Maplewood. The district is 32 percent black, 53 percent white, 7 percent Hispanic and 4 percent Asian, state data show. 

    According to one statistic in the complaint, in ninth grade, there were nine black students in advanced geometry in 2016-17, and 10 black students the following year. For white students, those numbers were dramatically higher: 61 ninth-graders enrolled in the course in 2016-17, and 89 in 2017-18.

    "We know income inequality and the wealth gap is often born or exacerbated in the classroom," Fields said. "We do a disservice to our children when we allow these disparities in educational outcomes, caused by the policies and practices of a school district, to persist."

    In 2014, the district reached an agreement with the U.S. Department of Education's Office for Civil Rights to fix the racial disparities in advanced level courses. ACLU-NJ also filed a complaint against the district for its tracking practices dating to the mid-1990s. 

    The complaint alleges not much has changed for the district's black students since then. The practices, it claims, have also affected students with disabilities. Data released last fall show policies meant to increase access to rigorous coursework have not offered adequate support for students, the suit said. Students are still tracked into different ability groups even though the New Jersey Education Association has opposed leveling, it said.

    slaveauction.jpgOne of the student slave auction poster assignment at South Mountain Elementary School last year.  

    The suit also cited racially insensitive assignments last year in which fifth grade social studies students were assigned to draw pictures of slave auction posters; in another school students made a video of a mock slave auction and "sold" a black student.

    The lawsuit, filed on behalf of several black students and a white student with ADHD, is seeking more than $12 million in damages, as well as new programs to address disparities.

    "It is time to end the delays and the piece-meal efforts that never dismantle the systemic elements that result in these racially discriminatory practices," Robert Tarver, the attorney representing the parent group, said. 

    Read the lawsuit here and here

    Karen Yi may be reached at Follow her on Twitter at @karen_yi or on Facebook


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    Who will move on to the sectional semifinals? Take a look at our staff picks.

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    Who will move on to the sectional semifinals? Take a look at our staff picks.

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    Carmen Orechio was also a former mayor and township commissioner in Nutley. Watch video

    Carmen Orechio, a former state Senate president who also served as Nutley's mayor three times and spent 40 years on the township's board of commissioners, died Monday.

    He was 91. 

    Gov. Phil Murphy signed an executive order Tuesday night ordering that flags be flown at half-staff at state buildings and facilities on Friday in honor of Orechio, a fellow Democrat. 

    Orechio served in the Senate, the upper house of the New Jersey Legislature, for 19 years and was its president from 1982 to 1985.

    Senate President Stephen Sweeney, D-Gloucester, said Orechio "embodied all the best qualities of a man who was devoted to service for others."

    "He was especially devoted to the needs of children and senior citizens and worked tirelessly to improve the quality and availability health care and to making our communities safe," Sweeney said in a statement. "I want to extend my sincere condolences to his family. We share in his loss but we are grateful for all that he accomplished in his life."

    Orechio was born in Nutley in 1926. He graduated from Rutgers University and fought in Europe during World War II as a member of the U.S. Army.

    Orechio was elected to Nutley's board of commissioners in 1968 and served on the board until 2008, when he lost his bid for an 11th term. 

    During that time, Orechio was named mayor three times: 1972-76, 1980-84, and 1992-96. Under the township's form of government, the commissioners select a mayor from the board's members.

    He also oversaw the township's public safety department for 25 years.

    Orechio was elected to the state Senate in 1973 and served in the chamber until 1992. At the time, elected officials could hold both state and local offices. 

    He also occasionally served as acting governor when Gov. Tom Kean was out of state. 

    Orechio's funeral will be at 8:30 a.m. Friday at the Biondi Funeral Home in Nutley. There will also be a funeral mass at 10 a.m. at St. Mary's Church in Nutley.

    Visitation will be from 3 to 8 p.m. Thursday.

    Brent Johnson may be reached at Follow him on Twitter @johnsb01. Find Politics on Facebook.

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    Sorting through the madness and breaking down some of the best state tournament action so far.

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    Ali Muhammad Brown is the first person to be charged with terrorism under state law in a homicide case.

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    The 64-year-old is a teacher at Washington Elementary School

    A West Orange elementary school teacher is in critical condition after she was hit by a car while crossing the street Monday night, officials said. 

    Patricia Villarosa, 64, a teacher at Washington Elementary School, was struck around 8 p.m. on Pleasant Valley Way near West Orange High School, Mayor Robert Parisi's office said in a release Tuesday.

    Villarosa remained in critical condition Tuesday, officials said.

    The driver, a 55-year-old West Orange man, stayed at the scene, officials. The crash remain under investigation.

    Villarosa teaches the first grade, according to the school's website. School officials did not have an immediate comment on the crash. 

     Amanda Hoover can be reached at Follow her on Twitter @amandahoovernj. Find on Facebook

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    What we pick out to wear each day is a kind of uniform of our own choosing.

    When we think about people who regularly wear uniforms, our thoughts likely turn to military personnel, police, fire and rescue workers. Other professionals that might come to mind are doctors and nurses. But the list of vocations where employees don uniforms is lengthy.

    Let us consider employees in the food service industry, postal workers and people who deliver packages. And, although office workers don't wear uniforms, there was a time when the de facto garb at an office, for men, was a white shirt and black tie.

    shhs.jpgAlert: An unauthorized school uniform accessory violation, headwear section has been spotted! 

    Children wear uniforms to school and as members of scouting groups and organized teams. Adults who belong to organizations often were uniforms, too. Think of the distinctive hats worn by the Shriners or aprons worn by Freemasons.

    What we pick out to wear each day, whether we know it or not, is a kind of uniform of our own choosing.

    According to Dr. Karen Pine, professor of psychology at the University of Hertfordshire, "When we put on an item of clothing it is common for the wearer to adopt the characteristics associated with that garment. A lot of clothing has symbolic meaning for us, whether it's 'professional work attire' or 'relaxing weekend wear', so when we put it on we prime the brain to behave in ways consistent with that meaning. It's the reason why we feel fitter in our sports clothes, or more professional in work wear."

    Here's a gallery of people in uniform and uniform attire in New Jersey, and links to other similar galleries you'll enjoy.

    Vintage photos of what people wore in N.J.

    Vintage photos of fashions and styles in N.J.

    Vintage photos of styles and fashions in N.J.

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    Most have been charged as juveniles, although at least two are facing indictable offenses as adults in state Superior Court

    Charges have been filed against at least 16 young people and one teacher for alleged threats against schools in New Jersey since a Valentine's Day shooting claimed the lives of 17 people at a high school in Florida two weeks ago.

    "This is not unusual," Acting Essex County Prosecutor Robert Laurino told reporters on Tuesday at press conference to confirm details of four such arrests in his own county. "In the case of mass shootings, there is usually a spike in such calls for up to 30 days following such a tragedy."

    John Rafanello and Michael SchmittJoseph Rafanello (left) and Michael Schmitt. (Police photo)

    Michael Schmitt, 18, of West Caldwell, is the second person scheduled to appear before Superior Court Judge Peter V. Ryan in Newark this week on a charge of creating a false public alarm by making social media threats against a local high school.

    Schmitt, who is scheduled to appear in court Thursday morning, follows Joseph Rafanello of Nutley, who was placed on home detention by Ryan on Wednesday following a detention hearing.

    Rafanello, also 18, has been accused of posting on Instagram a threatening video he later deleted.

    Most of those against whom authorities have publicly announced charges are juveniles whose names have not been released. They include:

    The Courier-Post reported Wednesday that Williamstown Middle School teacher Paul VanHouten was arrested by Monroe Township police on Feb. 16 on a charge of creating a false alarm after he allegedly spread on social media a rumor about gun violence at the school.

    Authorities have indicated that a number of other reported threats remain under investigation, including what local police said was a "concerning statement" made on an unspecified social media platform by a student at Cedar Grove Memorial Middle School.

    In another case, a threat written on a bathroom stall at Memorial Middle School in Point Pleasant Borough led authorities on Monday to lock down the school and order the student body and teachers to "shelter in place" during a search. Police said that investigation also remains ongoing.

    Thomas Moriarty may be reached at Follow him on Twitter at @ThomasDMoriarty. Find on Facebook.

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    Sorting through the madness and breaking down some of the best state tournament action so far.

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    Highlights from the state tournament.

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    Four of the hospitalized were children. The fire started in a building on Fairmount Avenue near 16th Street.

    Heavy smoke and flames ripped through a two-story building in Newark Wednesday night, leaving 12 homeless and sending six to the hospital for smoke inhalation, authorities said.

    Four of the hospitalized were children, said city spokeswoman Catherine Adams, who added that none of the injuries appeared life-threatening.

    There were no reports of injuries to firefighters.

    The fire began about 11:30 p.m. in a two-story building on Fairmount Avenue and 16th Street. It took firefighters until about 3 a.m. to bring the blaze under control, Adams said.

    "Building just went up in flames," said David Walsh, a city councilman who was at the scene.

    "This fire could've gotten a lot worse and could have engulfed the building next to it but it didn't because of the fast response (of police and firefighters)," he said.

    Adams called the building "mixed-use" with several apartments and a restaurant on the first floor.

    The fire appeared to have started on the second floor, Adams said.

    Arson investigators were at the scene Thursday morning but had not made a determination as to the cause, Adams said.

    The Red Cross of New Jersey said it was helping 12 people from five families with emergency assistance, including temporary lodging, food and clothing.

    Anthony G. Attrino may be reached at Follow him on Twitter @TonyAttrino. Find on Facebook.

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    See which team is atop the girls basketball Top 20 as the final month of the season begins.

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