Gov. Phil Murphy on Monday declined to give embattled Corrections Commissioner Marcus Hicks a public performance review.
“I’m going to repeat what I’ve said, so forgive me. The Edna Mahan incident in January is reprehensible. Completely, utterly unacceptable,” he said, sidestepping a question about Hicks’ broader performance as the state’s top prison official.
Hicks has faced wide-ranging calls for his resignation over a series of inmate beatings at the Edna Mahan Correctional Facility, the state’s only women’s prison.
The governor, so far, has stood by Hicks, deferring any action until the completion of an independent investigation led by former State Comptroller Matt Boxer, whose probe has been snagged by Attorney General Gurbir Grewal’s ongoing criminal investigation into the abuses at Edna Mahan.
Eight officials at the prison in Hunterdon County have been charged, and the Grewal probe remains ongoing.
But the fire Hicks is facing over the inmate abuses isn’t the first volley.
Last May, State Sen. Michael Testa (R-Vineland) called for Hicks to step down — or for Murphy to fire him should he refuse — over his handling of COVID-19 in the state’s correctional facilities.
Between April 3 and July 27, the Department of Corrections reported 3,710 cases of the virus in its facilities, including 933 among its staff. There were 51 inmate deaths during that period, the department’s reporting does not differentiate between virus deaths and those caused by other sources.
Hicks, a holdover from Gov. Chris Christie’s administration elevated by Murphy to the state’s top prisons post, remains popular with corrections unions.