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Just last week, we wrote about a package of new legislation aimed at curbing a history of sexual abuse at New Jersey’s only women’s prison, the Edna Mahan Correctional Facility for Women.

In a shocking move that has displeased many advocates of the incarcerated women, Gov. Phil Murphy announced on June 7 that he would instead be closing the prison for good.

Five new bills passed in May by the New Jersey Assembly had been over a year in the making and were on their way to the State Senate floor. They included increased training and body cameras for correctional officers and cracking down on failure to report abuse. The legislation was in response to a 2018 investigation by the Dept. of Justice (DOJ) that discovered a decades-old pattern of routine abuse at the facility, resulting in five officer arrests and 40 employee suspensions.

The most recent incident occurred in January of this year when several women were violently ousted from their cells and beaten, some to the point of permanent damage. Tensions had been building leading up to that night. It was one of many incidents of rape, sexual assault, beatings, and other abuse at Edna Mahan that have resulted in multiple lawsuits and convictions. 

“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,” said Gov. Murphy in a statement.

A redacted investigation report of the January incident was released to the public, and the governor implied it was the last straw for the notorious prison. He plans to close it down slowly over the next several years. Critics unhappy with the decision believe closing the prison does not hold the state accountable for the ongoing abuse or ensure it will not continue at other facilities. Taxpayers have been footing the bill for failed attempts at reform and will also be responsible for the expensive task of closing the building. 

State correctional officers union president, William Sullivan, told the New York Times he was “blindsided” by the decision and felt it reset any progress made on eradicating prison culture. 

The facility, opened in 1913 in Hunterdon County, currently holds nearly 400 prisoners, just under 100 of them in maximum security. They will be relocated to new or existing facilities. 

In just two years between 2016-2018, seven officers and staff were charged with various crimes, including criminal sexual contact and sexual assault. This is not the first time shutting Edna Mahan down has been mentioned. Corrections Commissioner Marcus Hicks said the move was “on the table” last month.

Inmates who have experienced sexual abuse at Edna Mahan or any other New Jersey correctional facility may face a complicated path to justice. The decision to close the prison will mean years of red tape and complex loopholes. The New Jersey team of lawyers at D’Arcy Johnson Day has years of experience in sexual abuse cases. For more information or a free consultation, call us toll-free at 866-327-2952 or use our online contact form

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