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December 4, 1999
Woodbridge Fights Against Sex-Offender Jail
J M Shenoy
On more than one occasion, scores of Indian American families and businessmen have joined other residents and businesses in fighting against a state-proposed sex-offender facility. In August, the state announced plans to build a 300-bed facility for high-risk sex offenders next to the existing sex-offender facility Woodbridge.
Town officials too protested. They charged that the state did not conduct a fair comparison between the Woodbridge location and two South Jersey sites under consideration.
Now the opponents are glad their mayor is taking the fight to a court, wanting to know why precisely Woodbridge was chosen.
"There are other parts of the state where the population is not big and they can locate the facility," says businessman, P Kothari.
There are nearly 10,000 Indians in and around Woodbridge. While other communities are also opposing the facility, Indian merchants, whose presence in the region has been steadily growing in the past decade, are more upset.
Iselin township, for instance, has nearly 50 Indian shops, restaurants and service facilities. In sheer volume of business and people visiting it every week, it is a bigger draw for the south Asian community than Jackson Heights in New York.
"Sex offenders are not like other criminals," said an Indian businessman. "When they escape, they want to harm the innocent. They look around for small children."
Mayor Jim McGreevey is appealing the decision on technical grounds.
''Documents critical to how the state made the decision are deliberately being withheld from the township," Mayor Jim McGreevey told reporters this week.
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