DOJ Issues Scathing Report on Sexual Abuse at New Jersey Women’s Prison

Victor Westerkamp
By Victor Westerkamp
April 17, 2020US News
DOJ Issues Scathing Report on Sexual Abuse at New Jersey Women’s Prison
Edna Mahan Correctional Facility for Women in Clinton, New Jersey (Google Maps

The U.S. Department of Justice issued a scathing report (pdf) on the ongoing culture of sexual abuse in New Jersey’s only women’s prison Edna Mahan this week.

“Edna Mahan suffers from a ‘culture of acceptance’ of sexual abuse, which has enabled abuse to persist despite years of notice and efforts towards change,” the report said.

Edna Mahan Correctional Facility for Women in Hunterdon County is an all-female institution that houses about 550 inmates and has a decades-long history of cases of sexual abuse and intimidation, described by many women in there as an “open secret,” WHYY reported.

“[The New Jersey Department of Corrections] and Edna Mahan have been aware that their women prisoners face a substantial risk of serious harm from sexual abuse, and they have failed to remedy this constitutional violation,” the report stated.

The report also identifies “systemic failures” in the institution in providing a platform for reporting sexual harassment and for filing complaints and a lack of supervision as the main reasons for the carping situation.

“If the New Jersey Department of Corrections and Edna Mahan do not effectively address the systemic deficiencies that led to the criminal sexual abuse revealed by the staff indictments, practices will continue at Edna Mahan that will likely result in continued sexual abuse of the women incarcerated there,” the report continues.

The Department of Justice issued a litany of corrective measures to the state’s department of corrections that the institution should follow up to within 49 days. If the concerns are not addressed, the DOJ might sue the state of New Jersey for violating the Eighth Amendment of the Constitution which is intended to guarantee prisoners reasonable safety from harm.

Matthew Schuman, a spokesman for the state Department of Corrections, told the outlet Tuesday that a lot of the recommendations mentioned in the report are well on their way, especially since Gov. Phil Murphy’s appointee Marcus Hicks took the lead over the department in May 2018.

Schuman stated that those measures comprised more surveillance cameras, gender restrictions as it comes to allocating jobs, and informing staff and prisoners of the federal Prison Rape Elimination Act, which regulates detainees’ rights. It became fully effective in 2012, but seemed to have bypassed Edna Mahan completely.

“The Department of Corrections remains committed to ensuring the safety of all those in its care, and, in service of that goal, continues to regularly monitor and evaluate its operations, programs, and services,” Schuman said.

Justice Department investigators called the Department of Corrections’ intentions “commendable,” but said that “Edna Mahan prisoners continue to raise credible allegations of staff sexual abuse and sexual harassment, despite the reforms.”

ntd newsletter icon
Sign up for NTD Daily
What you need to know, summarized in one email.
Stay informed with accurate news you can trust.
By registering for the newsletter, you agree to the Privacy Policy.