Gov. Phil Murphy declined to say whether he is in touch with embattled Corrections Commissioner Marcus Hicks not long after the Senate cleared a bipartisan resolution calling for his resignation over abuses at the state’s only women’s prison.
“I don’t get into how often or with whom I speak privately in terms of our team,” Murphy said at Friday’s virus briefing.
Hicks, a holdover from former Gov. Chris Christie’s administration whom Murphy elevated to the state’s top prison post, has faced mounting calls to resign. Assemblywoman Jean Stanfield (R-Westampton) has drafted a resolution to impeach Hicks that has gained some bipartisan support in the lower chamber.
Murphy has so far appeared to stand by Hicks, deferring comment or action against the commissioner until the conclusion of an independent investigation by former State Comptroller Matt Boxer into the abuses at the Edna Mahan Correctional Facility.
The governor has said that probe is moving in an “expedited” fashion, but has not been able to provide a timeline for when the investigation might reach its end.
“I can’t give you a date on the independent investigation by Matt Boxer,” he said when asked whether the probe would end in a matter of days, weeks or months Friday.
NJ Advance Media last month reported dozens of guards and supervisors at the facility were suspended after a number of inmates were severely beaten. A beating left one woman confined to a wheelchair, and another suffered a concussion and an orbital wall fracture during an alleged assault by prison personnel.
Attorney General Gurbir Grewal earlier this month announced criminal charges against three Edna Mahan officials, one guard and two supervisors, for their alleged roles in the beatings.
That investigation, Grewal said, remains ongoing.
Hicks has long kept a low public profile. While other members of Murphy’s cabinet make regular or semi-regular appearances at the governor’s thrice-weekly virus briefings, Hicks has appeared at only one. That was in April, roughly 10 months ago.
The scandal isn’t the first at Edna Mahan. Last year, the Department of Justice alleged constitutional violations over sexual assaults at the facility.