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How can a person be a sworn member of Law Enforcement for the County of Mercer and be treated as though she has committed some crime when all she did was what her duty called for.
Since 2008, my sister has put her life on the line as a member of the Mercer County Department of Corrections. While my Sister Robin Hallett may not have lost her life, she lost her home, car, business, income to support herself, and she is in a physical battle daily with severe pain that she has to live with for the rest of her life.
On two separate occasions my Sister was involved in two very violent altercations with inmates during her tours of duty that resulted in her sustaining severe injuries.
June 2012 a female inmate violently assaulted my sister, her two sergeants and several other female officers. While they were trying to restrain this inmate she sustained several blows and kicks that injured her shoulder, elbow, back and knee. During treatment for this injury, my sister was pregnant and her treatment was halted due to the high risk of her pregnancy. This resulted in my Sister having a miscarriage, and when her treatment was resumed by Mercer County, they sent her to Dr. Kirschner of Kirschner Spine Institute. He told her, “Had she not been pregnant with that critter in her, he would have been sent her back to work. My Sister was outraged and distraught. She wrote up this unprofessional, unethical behavior to Sue Schaeffer who is the social worker for officers and Beth Scarrella who is the director. Nothing was done regarding this issue.
June 2013 my Sister Robin was called to respond to a code involving a female from her unit. During this altercation, this female threatened to kill my sister, kill her children and family in front of several Lts, Sgts and fellow officers. This incident resulted in my sister having heard her back crack and re-sustained the injury to her right knee during this altercation. Although my Sister reported her injury in June, the County did not send her out for treatment until July 8th 2013, after a Sgt wrote up a report in response to my Sister having written several complaints of an injury. During this time my sister complained of major lower back pain and pain in her knew.
Although her union contract under “Rules for Occupational Injury Leave page 12 section 16.3 states that
Any employee who is disabled due to an occupational injury or illness shall be granted a leave of absence with full pay for the period of time the employee is disabled. Such disability is to be determined by the County Physician. Said leave of absence shall be limited to a maximum of one year from the date of injury or until temporary disability payment would have terminated, whichever is sooner. New Jersey Workers Compensation law shall apply if the disability continues beyond one year.
This did not apply to my Sister Robin, she was only given 6 weeks of physical therapy for her back and knee injury. She complained to the therapist and treating doctor that the therapy was hurting her more than helping. They completely ignored her. She told me the therapist told her he knew exactly what was wrong with her but could not do anything because she was a workers comp case. My sister also complained that the social worker sent her back to Dr. Kirschner the same doctor who made prejudicial statements to her during her last treatment. When she refused to be seen again by Dr. Kirschner, the county’s answer to her complaint was that she has to go to the Kirschner Institute but she would be seen by Dr. Andre Hu and not doctor Kirschner.
Who heals from a severe back injury with the complaints my Sister has after only six weeks of physical therapy, a Novocain back injection shot and only a MRI to her right knee was ordered by Dr. Hu.
Immediately after the six weeks of therapy the county sent my sister to take her first FCE or Functional capacity evaluation.
This test is so biased. Many lawyers are fighting the misuse of FCE’s, questioning their reliability and validity. Most FCE’s are companies hired by employers to be biased against workers. One lawyer I spoke with said most reports do not include an employees work level, in my sister case he said, for instance, would she be able to tolerate the mandatory overtime which is 8-16 hour shifts oftentimes 5X a week? These tests more often say the worker is exhibiting self-limiting behavior during their performance at the fce. The attorney I spoke with said there are too many inconsistencies in the test and these companies give biased interpretations and conclusions that claim in the case of my Sister that her limits are self-imposed over being imposed by her injuries she sustained during the altercation in 2012/2013.
This misuse of the fce for instance was apparent when my sister was injured in 2012, although she passed the FCE in 2012, the FCE returned her to work full duty but put a limitation on her ability to restrain inmates. The fce concluded she should not restrain inmates when she returned to work, but when she returned to work the county did not give my sister a copy of that fce, nor the diagnosis. At that time she did not have knowledge of her legal rights nor did she have legal representation. She just returned to work and out of her own pocket, she paid for her own continued physical therapy.
When she was injured in 2013, she informed Dr. Andre Hu her shoulder pain had returned during her treatment after that altercation. Dr. Hu did nothing to address her shoulder injury. He told her that she was not a regular patient and could not fully treat her because she was a workers comp case.
After the FCE the county moved to fire my sister, they did not offer her light duty , just termination. They charged my sister with being unfit for duty. A charge like she committed a crime because she failed the fce. In addition the county cancelled my sisters health insurance and stop paying her when the six-week treatment was up. Dr. Hu said she reached maximum medical improvement, therefore the county stopped paying her and she had no health insurance to find out what was actually wrong with her back.
During this time my niece, nephew and I all rotated staying with my sister to help her cope through this most difficult time. Not only was she depressed, she could not believe how the county of Mercer was treating her. A correction officer, who was dutiful, injured during the line of duty and now treated like a criminal.
Do you know what it was like to watch my Sister so depressed, suffering from severe pains and not know the cause of her back pain. Ashe is a dedicated, hardworking woman, who cared more about doing good in the community, always giving of herself, taking care of her family and new grandchildren now reduced to waking up in the middle of the night with severe back pains, she suffers from shooting pains down her legs, her spine continuously hurt, and severe pain that hovers at the base of her spine, spasms that shoot up and down her back, her back would lock and freeze and harden where she could not move. Squatting, bending would be done in extreme pain. Her pain would get so bad that she could not stand, nor walk, not lie down, riding in the car is her worse pain, and otc medicine did nothing to relieve her pain.
With all this going on, my Sister’s successful boutique was lost and had to close after three successful years, then she was evicted from her apartment, they kept her furniture, clothing, crafting supplies, appliances, dishes her personal possessions, then her car broke down and she could not afford to repair it. This hurt my family to the core, we watched my sister a proud member of law enforcement working 16 hour days to being homeless, bedbound most days suffering in pain silently.
June of 2014 my sister spoke with someone from charity care, after numerous visits to the ER they suggested she apply for charity care. Once approved they offered free limited medical services. She met with Dr. Buono who ordered SI joint injections. The first procedure was not successful. She said she was still in pain and the shots did not help. Dr. Buono then ordered Dr. Applbaum to do trigger injections and right joint injections. My sister said it was the worse pain/procedure she had ever endured in her life. The procedure was not successful, she remembered waking during the procedure feeling the injections. She was then brought out of sedation placed in a waiting room and then brought back in to the operating room for the procedure to be tried again under a cat scan. Dr. Applbaum was unsuccessful again. He told her there was a narrowing in her spine between the L5 and S1 that he could not perform the injections.
When that procedure was done my sister said her pain was even worse and her back hardening was getting worse after each injection procedure.
At this point Dr. Buono sent her to see a pain management Dr., Dr. Cruciani. They both told her they could not proceed until her pain was under control.
The county was still proceeding to fire her. They were successful November 2014 my sister was informed she was fired for failure to perform her duty. We encouraged my sister to seek further legal counsel, as the county was still proceeding with termination of employment. Her first attorney was unsuccessful. At her first hearing in March of 2014 the judge in Burlington County said she did not look like she was hurt. That’s what the judge told her attorney. How can a judge make a medical decision by looking at a person?
She was receiving no respite. The first attorney failed to prove her case and a judge said she’s not injured based on how she looked.
My sister fell further into depression.
It is painful to watch my sister go through this. She loved being a correction officer. She took her duty seriously, always went above and beyond the call of duty.
Prior to becoming a correction officer, my Sister worked for the Board of Education and part-time for the Life Skills Academy as a class instructor throughout prisons in NJ.
In her spare time, she devoted herself to uplifting her community. And received numerous awards and citations from civic and community leaders, outreach programs, organizations and worked alongside politicians, churches and community organizations such as Senator Shirley Turner, Assemblymen Reed Gusciora, Congresswoman Bonnie Watson-Coleman from the 15 Legislative District, former Trenton Mayor Douglas H. Palmer Trenton Weed and Seed, The Boys & Girls Club, BOLES, Sister 2 Sister, former Police Chief Joe Constance, Mothers Against Violence, Trenton Housing Authority and countless others. My Sister is the founder of Women of Virtue Inc., where she continues to serve tirelessly to help educate and improve the lives of at risk women, adolescent girls, and families throughout Mercer County for over 14 years.
My Sister took an oath to become an upstanding public servant, who is being treated like a criminal. She just suffers in silence, not asking for anything. Even today she cannot afford her medications. Currently she takes: Mobic, flexeril, Neurontin, soma, Percocet, Lidoderm patches and Dr. Cruciani prescribed a tens unit (electronic stimulating machine for her back) but she cannot afford to buy it. Her attorney said she would forward the scripts to the county for them to pay it. Her attorneys Gaylord & Popp have not heard anything yet. Being that she gets charity care the services she receives are limited, they cannot do anything regarding her scripts or further treatment.
My name is Danyetta and my niece Robin decided to tell her story and ask for your support. We felt her story needs to be heard.
“Sometimes the strongest amongst us are the ones who smile through silent pain, cry behind closed doors and fight battles nobody knows about.” (author unknown)
That’s the Sister, Friend, Mother, Daughter, Grand-Mother, Officer, Public Servant, , Colleague and Community Activist that we all know and Love.
I pray we can count on your financial support.