UNION TOWNSHIP, NJ – According to a news story posted on nj.com, dozens of prison staff at the Edna Mahan Correctional Facility for Women were suspended and are under investigation for severely beating female inmates. The criminal investigation was initiated after officials received reports from family members and advocates that corrections officers had severely beaten several inmates. Family members of several inmates and inmate advocates were told corrections officers had brutally injured several women at the Edna Mahan Correctional Facility on January 11, 2021.
According to the eye witness accounts, a transgender woman was so brutally beaten that she is unable to walk and is confined to a wheelchair. Another victim sustained an eye socket fracture. Advocates and family members provided N.J. Advance Media first-hand accounts and have shared letters from female inmates who describe the abuse and violent attacks made by corrections officers at Edna Mahan Correctional Facility for Women.
According to the prison’s spokeswoman, Liz Velez, the New Jersey Department of Corrections, the Hunterdon County Prosecutor’s Office, and the State Attorney General’s Office, are investigating the allegations of unlawful physical violence.
The prison’s spokeswoman distributed an email statement that the New Jersey Department of Corrections is aware of the accusations, and the Department of Corrections will not permit this conduct. She continued by stating if the allegations are found to be true, the Department of Corrections would expeditiously and appropriately take action. She also stated that the Department of Corrections might also conduct an internal probe to hold those involved accountable for their actions.
According to N.J. Advance Media, the spokesperson did not dispute the assertions presented in several written statements drafted by prisoners who witnessed the events on January 11, 2021, and other incidents witnessed in the past. In one witness statement, a female inmate stated that she was handcuffed and then beaten. She also stated that the prison’s Special Operations Group was involved in her attack.
According to William Sullivan, President of NJ PBA Local 105, around 30 corrections officers, supervisors, and other prison staff were placed on “Administrative Paid Leave.” The NJ PBA Local 105 is New Jersey’s biggest corrections union.
The news report stated that the Edna Mahan Correctional Facility for Women was already under increased scrutiny after the U.S. Department of Justice affirmed that corrects officers were repeatedly engaging in sexual abuse of the prisoners. New Jersey lawmakers have also criticized the state prison system’s response to sex abuse crimes committed by prison staff at the facility.
Assemblywoman Yvonne Lopez stated that she was horrified by the charges and that her heart breaks for all of the victims harmed in the recent attack. Assemblywoman Lopez said this incident exposes how the Department of Corrections continues to fail at protecting women. In the past, the assemblywoman has demanded that all penitentiary officers wear body cameras. She also helped to pass legislation that strengthens the Office of the Corrections Ombudsperson, which serves as a fair and impartial intermediary to help prevent inmate abuse, bias, and other improper treatment. She stated these new charges are concerning to her because the ombudsperson’s office does not effectively watch over New Jersey’s prisons.
According to Dan DiBenedetti, an ombudsman, the event was significantly more serious than the typical day-to-day grievances his office typically reviews. Mr. DiBenedetti stated that this situation in a criminal investigation and their office presented all of the information they collected from inmates, families, and inmate advocate organizations to assist in the criminal investigation.
The Hunterdon County Prosecutor’s spokesperson asks those with questions about the case to contact the State Attorney General’s Office. One Attorney General spokesperson stated that their Office of Public Integrity and Accountability was investigating the charges.
According to the victim’s mother’s statement to news reporters, her daughter is a transgender woman who was attacked by a group and was unable to defend herself. The attackers handcuffed her daughter inside of her prison cell, drove her violently onto the floor, and then severely beat her. Her group of attackers consisted of inmates and corrections officers. The victim is accusing three corrections officers of stomping on her head while four inmates were permitted to beat her. The mother stated that she received news about the attack from messages that she received from her child two days after the attack. The attackers’ brutality caused her daughter’s knee to be so severely injured that her daughter now uses a wheelchair.
The victim’s mother stated that she is terrified for her daughter’s safety and cannot eat or sleep. She is also constantly online and, on the phone, trying to find her daughter some help. She requested that her daughter’s name be protected and not released to protect her from retaliation. The victim’s mother’s account is comparable to accounts provided by four other inmates at the prison.
The news report states that they have received two additional witness statements that corroborate the circumstances alleged. These two letters stated that three or more women had been injured in correction officer attacks and described the same types of injuries sustained by the women.
The Edna Mahan Correctional Facility for Women is located in Union Township, New Jersey. The Hunterdon County prison facility operates under the State of New Jersey Department of Corrections and is a female-only prisoner facility. Edna Mahan Correctional Facility for Women is the state’s only women’s prison.
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