Mukherji Bill Prohibiting Retaliation Against Inmates in State Correctional Facilities Who Report Sexual Abuse Clears Assembly Judiciary Panel

(TRENTON) – Recent testimony and accounts from former inmates of the Edna Mahan Correctional Facility for Women spoke to acts of intimidation and retaliation for filing a complaint of sexual abuse.

The Assembly Judiciary Committee advanced legislation on Tuesday, sponsored by Assemblyman Raj Mukherji (D- Hudson), prohibiting retaliation against inmates in State correctional facilities who file a complaint of sexual assault or harassment, physical violence, or mental abuse against a corrections officer or other staff member of the facility.

This measure is one of six legislative actions taken by the Assembly Judiciary Committee to address the concerns raised over the current culture and environment of New Jersey’s only women’s prison, Edna Mahan Correctional Facility. The 6-bill package aims to improve transparency and training for corrections officers, accountability, and access to reentry programs for inmates to curb recidivism.

The bill (A-5750) also would specifically require the Commissioner of Corrections to establish a secure, reliable, and confidential method for inmates incarcerated in State correctional facilities to report these complaints.

Assemblyman Mukherji issued the following statement:

“The federal report and our committee’s inquiry shed light on various ways the women prisoners at Edna Mahan were exposed to continued sexual and physical abuses that persisted for decades despite all of the press coverage, calls for change, and enactment of the Dignity Act. We were alarmed to learn about the various ways in which they were let down by the oversight mechanisms that were supposed to protect them. We heard testimony in committee and firsthand observations from inmates while touring Edna Mahan that women don’t report abuse because they fear reprisal, because investigations are inadequate when abuse is reported, because supervision is inadequate, and because the reporting mechanisms aren’t effective or truly confidential.

“Equally distressing is the culture of acceptance of sexual abuse. This bill will help ensure that inmates and staff alike feel safe to confidentially report abuses, and correctional facility staff members who retaliate or fail to report abuses will face serious criminal penalties. The corruption and systemic deprivation of constitutional rights won’t end if onlookers are allowed to remain silent while women are beaten or raped.”