Home News NJ to close only women’s prison after reports of attacks by guards

NJ to close only women’s prison after reports of attacks by guards

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New Jersey will close the only women’s prison in the state after a series of sexual abuse charges and a night of raids by guards that turned violent.

Gov. Phil Murphy (D) said Monday he wanted to close the Edna Mahan Correctional Facility, a scandal-plagued prison that houses about 370 prisoners in rural Hunterdon County.

The jail was already under scrutiny for a federal report citing years of sexual abuse of inmates when a series of forced “cell extractions” on Jan. 11 resulted in injuries to inmates – and charges against 10 guards and employees.

“I am deeply disturbed and disgusted by the horrific attacks that took place on January 11,” Murphy said in a press release.

“Individuals in state custody deserve to be treated with dignity and respect, and the officers involved in this incident, both directly and indirectly, abused their power to send a message that they were in charge.”

Murphy’s announcement came the same day as the release of a scathing 75-page report on the Jan. 11 incidents by former state Comptroller Matt Boxer and law firm Lowenstein Sandler.

The report outlines abuses against inmates, which included one prisoner who ended up with a fractured skull and another with a broken leg. False reports were filed on the extractions, the report said, and one inmate was subjected to a strip search in view of a male correction officer.

Video of the raids showed one inmate whose clothes were ripped off and another whose hair is held by one officer while another punches her in the face, chest and back.

“She never appears to be resisting, but rather appears to be attempting to cover her face to avoid being punched,” the report states. There is no video footage of how the two inmates sustained the broken bones, according to the report.

Murphy is expecting the closure will take years.

“Mahan Correctional Facility for Women has a long history of abusive incidents predating our Administration, and we must now commit ourselves to completely breaking this pattern of misconduct to better serve incarcerated women entrusted to the State’s care,” Murphy said.

“After reading the report and its recommendations, I have decided that the only path forward is to responsibly close the facility,” he added.

“I look forward to working with our partners in the Legislature to responsibly close down the Edna Mahan Correctional Facility for Women and relocate inmates to a new facility or other facilities.”

New Jersey will close the only womenÕs prison in the state after a series of sexual abuse charges and a violent night of attacks by guards
New Jersey will close the only women’s prison in the state.
New Jersey Department of Corrections

The prison has a history of accusations and lawsuits related to treatment of the women prisoners there. Between 2016 and 2019, eight prison employees faced criminal charges related to sexual abuse of prisoners and seven so far have been found guilty after trial or pleaded guilty to charges, the report said.

The eighth person charged hasn’t gone to trial yet, according to the report, and a supervisor facing charges of evidence tampering is also waiting for his day in court.

A US Department of Justice (DOJ) report in April 2020 found the state Department of Corrections “fails to keep prisoners at Edna Mahan safe from sexual abuse by staff.” The state now has a tentative settlement ready with DOJ about the alleged violations.

And according to the Jan. 11 report, the state paid a $20.8 million settlement in a class-action lawsuit from more than 20 inmates who claimed sexual abuse dating back to 2014.

The report came after NJ Advance Media reported roughly 30 guards and other prison workers had been suspended and a criminal probe launched after the Jan. 11 raids.

State Assemblywoman Yvonne Lopez (D) said at the time the incident showed the corrections department was still failing to protect women.

“I am horrified by the allegations out of Edna Mahan” and “my heart breaks for the victims of this attack,” Lopez said, according to NJ.com.

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