Home>Highlight>Alleging physical abuse, former inmate at Edna Mahan facility files civil rights lawsuit against guards, Hicks

Brieauna Gibson. Photo: New Jersey Department of Corrections.

Alleging physical abuse, former inmate at Edna Mahan facility files civil rights lawsuit against guards, Hicks

By David Wildstein, February 23 2021 12:38 pm

An inmate at the Edna Mahan Correctional Facility has filed a federal civil rights lawsuit alleging that she was the victim of beatings and psychological abuse by prison guards that landed her in the hospital.

Brieauna Gibson, who was serving a four-year prison term for robbery and weapons possession, claims she was assaulted on three different occasions by at least seven different corrections officers.

Among the prison guards named in the lawsuit were Amir Bethea and Anthon Valvano, two of three officers at the Mahan facility charged this month by Attorney General Gurbir Grewal with filing false reports to cover up attacks at the prison.

Bethea, Valvano, and corrections officers Kelly Burlian, Diana Torres and at least five others are included in a suit that alleges excessive force and permanent physical and mental health issues.

Marcus Hicks, the embattled New Jersey Commissioner of Corrections, was named as a defendant in Gibson’s lawsuit.

Gibson’s lawsuit follows multiple allegations of beatings and sexual assaults at the state’s only women’s prison.

In court filings, Gibson alleges that in one “especially violent” incident last year, she was “violently struck her on her back with his baton” and that another officer “struck her repeatedly with his shield.”

Her attorney claims that medical treatment was withheld for over a month.

In court filings, the 31-year-old Gibson says she “some twenty times, to attempt to secure relief from the physical, verbal and psychological abuse,” but her “grievances were either denied or never acknowledged.”

Gibson claims that inspectors from the Department of Corrections avoided interaction with inmates and that she witnessed “severe and pervasive abuse” by corrections officers during her five years of incarceration.

Her attorney claims that her presence in a prison “with such rampant abuse and a dehumanizing culture of harassment, abuse, violence and retaliation has had a harmful and deleterious effect,” the filing says.

“The Edna Mahan Correctional Facility and the other named defendants violated my client’s civil rights, the violations by the defendants were severe systemic and exacerbated by the deliberate and reckless indifference and was a clear departure from her rights under the US Constitution and the New Jersey Constitution,” said Lydia Cotz, Gibson’s attorney.  “In addition, the Facility was already being investigated by the DOJ.”

A bipartisan group of lawmakers led by Assemblywomen Jean Stanfield (R-Westampton), Valerie Vainieri Huttle (D-Englewood) and Nancy Munoz (R-Summit) introduced a resolution to impeach Hicks on Monday, saying he failed to stop beatings and sexual assaults.

Vainieri Huttle said this month that she had contacted the corrections department about allegations against Bethea but never received a response.

Gov. Phil Murphy has stood by Hicks pending the result of an independent investigation conducted by former state comptroller Matt Boxer. There’s no indication of when that probe might be completed.

All 25 Democrats in the State Senate and every Republican woman in the legislature have called on Hicks to resign.

A spokesperson for the Department of Corrections did not immediately respond to a 12:15 PM request for comment on the lawsuit.

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