(TRENTON) – Requiring increased transparency in sexual abuse investigations in correctional facilities and training for investigators, legislation sponsored by Assemblywoman Carol Murphy was approved by the Assembly Judiciary Committee on Tuesday.
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-5749) would require specialized training for corrections officers who conduct sexual abuse investigations in State correctional facilities; imposes disclosure and recusal requirements on these investigators if they have a personal relationship with an officer being investigated; and prohibits federal Prison Rape Elimination Act (PREA) compliance officers from serving as investigators.
Assemblywoman Murphy (D-Burlington) issued the following statement on the bill:
“It has become extremely apparent, through the Department of Justice report in 2019 and the recent hearing held by our committees, that the women at Edna Mahan were abused, ignored and intimidated when they attempted to inform anyone of what was going on.
“The lines seem to be blurred in sexual abuse allegations involving corrections officers and investigators, which has led to years of bias and staff misconduct. The women in Edna Mahan need an advocate. They deserve a safe place to turn and be listened to if they have a complaint.
“The current degrading and abusive culture of Edna Mahan is coming to an end. It’s time to ensure the women of this facility and inmates in all facilities retain their basic human right—their dignity.”
The six bills reviewed by the Assembly Judiciary panel are the first of a two-part legislative package addressing the concerns at Edna Mahan. The Assembly Women and Children Committee will convene in June to review additional measures concerning Edna Mahan Correctional Facility.