Four Democratic Assemblywomen called on Gov. Phil Murphy to place on leave two of the state’s top corrections officials after reports of widespread abuse at the state’s only women’s prison.
Assemblywomen Yvonne Lopez (D-Perth Amboy), Valerie Vainieri Huttle (D-Englewood), Eliana Pintor Marin (D-Newark) and Pamela Lampitt (D-Cherry Hill) asked that Corrections Commissioner Marcus Hicks and Corrections Ombudsman Dan DiBenedetti be put on administration leave pending an investigation into the alleged abuses.
“We believe that this incident, among the many others at Edna Mahan, demonstrate a pattern of failure in protecting the well-being of inmates and underscore the need for serious reform within Edna Mahan and facilities across New Jersey,” they said in a letter to Murphy. “We urge you to expeditiously conduct these investigations and take the necessary steps in protecting vulnerable inmates.”
Dozens of staff at the Edna Mahan Correctional Facility have been suspended after being accused of beating a number of inmates. The abuses were first reported by NJ Advance Media.
One woman was beaten so severely she is now confined to a wheelchair, and authorities have launched a criminal probe into the abuses, which come just months after state officials reached a tentative settlement agreement with the U.S. Department of Justice over sexual assaults at the facility.
“Without a doubt, we are certain you can agree that these findings are disturbing, reprehensible and have no place in our correctional facilities,” the assemblywomen said. “While we are aware that the Department of Corrections is conducting an investigation into the allegations, we cannot over stress the importance of a thorough and comprehensive investigation into the incident and policies that led to such an assault to happen in the first place.”
Senate Majority Leader Loretta Weinberg (D-Teaneck) and State Sen. Linda Greenstein (D-Plainsboro) earlier this week called for resignations of Hicks and Edna Mahan Administrator Sarah Davis, the facility’s Warden.