Recent allegations of physical assault by correctional officers at New Jersey’s Edna Mahan Correctional Facility has raised concerns about the treatment of inmates in this women’s prison. The facility has a history of similar allegations, with several officers convicted of sexual assault in 2018 and 2019.
On Thursday, Assembly Democrats Raj Mukherji and Gabriela Mosquera led a joint hearing of the Judiciary Committee and Women and Children Committee to investigate the culture of Edna Mahan and determine what protections have been put into place for inmates.
The committees received testimony from Commissioner of Corrections Marcus Hicks, Corrections Ombudsperson Dan DiBenedetti and other invited guests who answered a number of questions regarding Edna Mahan’s policies and procedures.
Assembly members learned more about how inmates are notified of their rights, what methods are available to them to make a complaint, if/how inmates are protected from retaliation after reporting abuse, how and why inmates are removed from their cells, and what oversight exists for the facility.
Upon conclusion of the hearing, Chairpersons Mukherji and Mosquera issued the following statements:
“Today’s hearing confirms the Justice Department report that the pattern of abuse, including rampant sexual abuse, and systemic failures at Edna Mahan constitutes continued violations of the 8th Amendment of the Constitution and basic human rights. No sentence includes abuse or rape, regardless of the crime for which an inmate was convicted,” said Assemblyman Mukherji (D-Hudson). “While the Department of Corrections appears to have made progress in implementing remedial measures and the Dignity Act – and a consent decree and federal monitors are imminent – we also learned that the ombudsperson has not seized upon the opportunity to use last year’s robust legislative reforms to effectuate dynamic change and, worse yet, has been derelict in his duty. We will tour the prison later this month. Outside of the committee process, we will continue to interview subject matter experts and fact witnesses alike, including those with firsthand knowledge of the depravities and goings-on at the facility. Our committees’ work is not done. We will reconvene to consider legislative measures that are responsive to the abuses. Our state has failed to protect these women. There is a culture of impunity at Edna Mahan, when there needs to be a culture of accountability.”
“To say the mistreatment of inmates at the Edna Mahan Correctional Facility is concerning would be a significant understatement. The allegations of physical and sexual abuse that far too many women have endured in this facility are unacceptable,” said Assemblywoman Mosquera (D-Camden, Gloucester). “I was appalled by recent reports of correctional officers abusing their power to degrade, injure and ultimately violate the rights of the women in their care. The fact that this is not the first time our state has looked into similar allegations at the same facility makes this matter all the more troubling. This pattern of abuse cannot go on. As Speaker Coughlin has said – we need answers and we need reform. This hearing will help us determine what changes need to be made on behalf of the vulnerable inmates in this facility going forward. We have a lot of work to do.”