New Jersey Is Closing Its Only Women's Prison After Rampant Abuse By Guards

Jun 7, 2021

New Jersey will close its only prison for women after years of documented physical and sexual abuses of inmates by guards.

Gov. Phil Murphy announced in a press release Monday his intention to close the Edna Mahan Correctional Facility for Women and move its nearly 400 inmates to a new facility or other existing facilities.

"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," the Democratic governor said in a statement.

The move came on the same day that the governor's office released its findings into reports of brutal cell extractions that occurred inside the prison on January 11, first reported by NJ Advance Media, which left women prisoners with injuries ranging from scratches to a fractured eye socket.

The administration's report, written by the law firm Lowenstein Sandler LLP, found that prison staff used excessive force to remove the women from their cells and then filed false reports about what had occurred.

The New Jersey Attorney General's Office has now charged 10 corrections officers with official misconduct and other crimes in the ongoing criminal inquiry into the January 11 incident.

Calls for a change in culture

Nafeesah A. Goldsmith, chair of New Jersey Prison Justice Watch, said she did not oppose the closure of Edna Mahan, but suggested simply moving inmates to another facility would not put an end to the abuse of female prisoners.

"You've got to change the culture," she said. "Not a change of scenery."

Goldsmith, who was incarcerated at Edna Mahan for nearly 13 years before being released in 2017, also called for better training of corrections officers and more independent oversight of the prison system.

In 2020, federal investigators concluded that sexual abuse was systemic at Edna Mahan, and in April state Corrections Commissioner Marcus Hicks announced that New Jersey was finalizing a consent decree with the Justice Department that would likely include federal monitors at the prison.

The N.J. Department of Corrections also announced earlier this year that it agreed to pay nearly $21 million to settle 22 civil lawsuits against the state over allegations of sexual abuse and harassment at the troubled correctional facility.

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