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Assemblywoman Jean Stanfield (R-Westampton). (Photo: Kevin Sanders for the New Jersey Globe)

Lawmakers introduce resolution to impeach Hicks

Embattled corrections commissioner faces bipartisan push toward ouster

By Nikita Biryukov, February 22 2021 4:44 pm

A bipartisan group of Assembly lawmakers introduced a resolution to impeach Corrections Commissioner Marcus Hicks over abuses at the state’s only women’s prison Monday.

The articles of impeachment brought by Assemblywomen Jean Stanfield (R-Westampton), Valerie Vainieri Huttle (D-Englewood) and Nancy Munoz (R-Summit) accuse Hicks of failing to stop sexual assaults and beatings at the Edna Mahan Correctional Facility.

“Assemblywoman Vainieri Huttle and I may come from different parties, but we are aligned in our belief Commissioner Hicks must be held accountable,” Stainfield said. “Valerie has been at the forefront of this and will not be silenced. This is a bipartisan issue, and by working together, we will make sure rape and abuse at the hands of prison guards ends at Edna Mahan.”

Last month, NJ Advance Media reported dozens of guards and supervisors at Edna Mahan were suspended after a series of inmates were severely beaten by guards. The assaults left one woman confined to a wheelchair. Another woman suffered an orbital wall fracture.

Hicks, a holdover from Gov. Chris Christie’s administration whom Gov. Phil Murphy elevated to the top Department of Corrections post, has faced increasing calls to resign in the weeks since. Last week, 35 senators backed a resolution calling for his resignation. That resolution followed calls for his resignation from every Senate Democrat.

“Prisoners are still people. We as a State must take a leadership role in ensuring dignity and safety for everyone, including those who are incarcerated,” Vainieri Huttle said. “We have called for the resignation of Commissioner Hicks and this resolution aims to bring accountability to the DOC. Regardless, reforms are still sorely needed to address the systemic abuse within our system.”

Though others in the chamber have called for him to resign, it’s not clear whether there are enough votes in the Assembly to impeach Hicks, though it appears the Senate can clear the two-thirds supermajority needed to impeach him.

Murphy, so far, 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.

In early February, State Attorney General Gurbir Grewal charged three corrections officers, one guard and two supervisors, over two assaults there. That investigation, Grewal said, remains ongoing.

“Governor Murphy and Commissioner Hicks have been given ample opportunities to make the necessary reforms to protect the women at the prison. My colleagues and I will not tolerate one more transgression,” Munoz said. “The Legislature is proceeding with the impeachment of Commissioner Hicks, because we refuse to allow the women’s cries for help to fall on deaf ears any longer. We must remove the man at the top who has shunned his responsibilities for far too long.”

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