At the Edna Mahan Correctional Facility for Women in Hunterdon County, eight staff members have been accused of sexually abusing inmates since 2015. The facility is being investigated by the U.S. Department of Justice for potential civil rights violations and county prosecutors are conducting their own probe into the problems there. Last year, the state attorney general ordered an independent investigation and state lawmakers are considering a special commission to investigate as well.
One of the men accused, a senior prison officer, has been convicted of sexual assault, criminal sexual contact, and official misconduct. Last year, another former employee entered a guilty plea when charged with sexual abuse of a detainee.
New Jersey law prohibits any kind of sexual contact between prison staff and inmates, since a prisoner cannot legally give consent. There are several factors at the Edna Mahan facility that allowed the sexual abuse of prisoners to continue for years undetected. One is the lack of cameras inside some of the minimum security housing units, allowing staff to abuse prisoners without being seen. Even areas with surveillance cameras only preserve footage for 30 days before erasing it and it is often months or years before complaints of abuse can come out in a place like a correctional facility.
Another problem is the lack of a procedure to screen staff as they enter the prison each day for work. The connection between contraband trade in prisons and sexual abuse is well documented, however employees at Edna Mahan can drive their own cars into the facility. In most other state prisons, staff are required to park somewhere off grounds and then go through security screening when they enter the prison for work.
Five new bills have been introduced into the New Jersey state legislature to target the abuses at the prison, but Senator Linda Greenstein of Middlesex said she intends to amend several of them to include all state prisons. The new legislation would:
A former inmate testified before a state hearing that the reforms were long overdue because women who enter the Edna Mahan facility leave more damaged than they were when they came in; the opposite of what is supposed to happen in the process of corrections.
At Williams Cedar, our skilled Pennsylvania and New Jersey civil rights lawyers have extensive experience defending victims of police misconduct. If you feel your civil rights have been violated, we can help. Call 856-470-9777 or 215-557-0099 to schedule a free consultation about your case or contact us online. From our offices in Philadelphia and Haddonfield, New Jersey, we provide skilled representation to clients throughout Pennsylvania, Cherry Hill, South Jersey, and nationwide.