Staff members at the Edna Mahan Correctional Facility have been suspended amid an ongoing investigation into claims of abuse.
Thirty-one staff members at the Edna Mahan Correctional Facility have been suspended as claims of inmate abuse by prison guards are investigated.
According to the New York Times, 22 guards, nine supervisors, and the prison’s top administrator have all been suspended. New Jersey’s attorney general’s office is investigating, and Governor Phillip Murphy appointed Matt Boxer, a former comptroller to lead a separate, independent inquiry into the occurrences of the women-only prison.
“Let me be clear: Every individual in state custody deserves to be treated with dignity and respect, and we must always remember that female inmates have long been uniquely vulnerable to abuse,” he said according to the report. He continued, “Based on those findings, which I expect to receive in an expedited fashion, any individual who acted improperly will be held fully accountable.”
One allegation at the center of the investigation is violence against a transgender inmate. Although not publicly named, the inmate’s mother Trimeka Rollins shared the account with the news outlet. The Times reported four guards handcuffed and beat Rollins’s daughter on Jan. 11.
The attack resulted in a ligament in her knee being broken, and she is now forced to rely on a wheelchair. The family had hoped the female facility would be different as their transgender loved-one had previously been housed in a prison for males.
“We thought it would be a little different,” Rollins told the Times.
According to the report, the abuse is not new nor an isolated event.
Leader of the State Assembly Craig Coughlin issued a statement regarding the facility.
“A pattern has developed at the facility and those supervising it are not doing nearly enough to protect its vulnerable inmates,” Coughlin said according to the Times. “We need answers and we need reform.”
Of the 22 officers suspended, 11 are women and 11 are men said William Sullivan, the President of the union representing corrections officers. All of the officers were placed on administrative leave, however Sullivan claimed it is unlikely all were involved in the incident. He alleged the officers acted in response to an attempt to remove unwilling prisoners from two separate cells, a procedure known professionally as “forced cell extraction.”
According to Sullivan, in the weeks prior to the incident, officers had filed multiple reports of being sprayed with a mix of feces and urine.
“Now that doesn’t excuse whatever happened,” he said, “but it’s been a little bit of a problem area.”
Rollins shared that she communicates with her daughter through email and expressed concern of action from remaining officers after the initial officers were suspended.
“I’m just afraid that the ones who are left are going to retaliate,” Ms. Rollins said about the remaining guards. “I am definitely afraid for her life.”
Ms. Magazine reported the Edna Mahan Correctional Facility was found to have a risk of sexual harm that reached constitutional proportions and violated inmates’ Eighth Amendment rights against cruel and unusual punishment.
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