(TRENTON) – In response to a report from the federal Department of Justice and U.S. Attorney’s Office detailing rampant sexual abuse at the Edna Mahan Correctional Facility for Women in Hunterdon County, Assemblywomen Yvonne Lopez (D-Middlesex) and Valerie Vainieri Huttle (D-Bergen) released the following joint statement:
“‘Despicable’ does not begin to describe the widespread abuse uncovered by this federal investigation. It’s horrifying. It’s deplorable. Most of all, it’s heartbreaking.
“No inmate should face sexual abuse in prison under any circumstances, particularly at the hands of the correctional officers who are supposed to keep them safe. Unfortunately, the federal report details that some officers at Edna Mahan used their authority to abuse women and pressure them into not reporting the incidents. This report confirms what we already feared.
“We want women to come forward with their stories. We want officers who witness abuse to report it. Above all, we need this culture of abuse to come to an unequivocal end.
“The Legislature has taken action to address the systematic abuse at Edna Mahan and throughout the prison system, including the passage of the Dignity Act last year. This law, which we proudly sponsored, made substantial improvements to the Office of the Ombudsman for Corrections allowing it to serve as an independent and unbiased advocate for those who are incarcerated, and monitor allegations of sexual and physical abuse. Additionally in response to conditions at Edna Mahan, the Legislature has passed measures to set guidelines for in-service training of correctional police officers; establish reporting mechanisms; implement policies to limit cross gender searches; and protect the rights of incarcerated female crime victims. These are critical steps, but we need to do more.
“We pledge to continue fighting for the safety of every incarcerated person in New Jersey. A prison sentence may strip an individual of their freedom, but it should never take away their human dignity.”