After reviewing an investigation about rapes, attacks and other alleged abuse, New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy announced Monday his intention to close women´s prison, Edna Mahan Correctional Facility in Hunterdon County.
“Edna 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 in a statement calling for its closing.
According to nj.com, the governor also released an investigative report made by former State Comptroller Matt Boxer and the Lowenstein Sandler law firm on cell extractions at the facility that occurred on January 11.
“After reading the report and its recommendations, I have decided that the only path forward is to responsibly close the facility,” the governor said.
Concerning the attacks that ocurred in January, Murphy said he was “deeply disturbed and disgusted” by what took place at the women´s prison, in what has been described as a night of violence inside a facility noted for permanent allegations of sexual abuse, exploitation and physical violence against prisoners by corrections officers and civilian staff.
Murphy criticized excessive use of violence and called for protecting prisoners’ dignity. “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 said. “The excessive use of force, as outlined in the report, cannot and will not be tolerated by my administration.”
Record of abuse
Noting that the women´s prison “has a long history of abusive incidents”, he said that New Jersey must commit to “completely breaking this pattern of misconduct to better serve incarcerated women entrusted to the state’s care.”
Between 2016 and 2018, six correctional officers and one civilian staff member have been charged with crimes relating to sexual abuse of prisoners, including sexual assault, conspiracy to commit sexual assault, criminal sexual contact and official misconduct.
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At least 30 staff members have been suspended at the prison. And 10 officers have now been charged over inmate beatings or aiding in a coverup.
The Governor´s plan includes is to shut down the prison and relocate inmates to a new facility or other facilities. He said, however, that this movement will take some time. “While this will not happen overnight, I intend to work with legislative leadership during the current budget cycle to allocate funding to begin this multi-year process,” he said.
The women´s prison, which opened in 1913 as the “State Reformatory for Women,” is located in rural Hunterdon County. Approximately 372 prisoners are currently held there, including 94 prisoners in the minimum security complex and 278 in the maximum security complex.
The possibility of closing Edna Mahan has been under consideration before. Last month, Hicks, the corrections commissioner, told the Assembly Budget Committee that the state might consider shutting down the prison following the continuing allegations of abuse behind bars.