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Corrections Commissioner Marcus Hicks. (Photo: Office of the Governor.)

Statements on the testimony of Corrections Commissioner Marcus Hicks

By Nikita Biryukov, April 08 2021 3:07 pm

Assembly Judiciary Chairman Raj Mukherji (D-Jersey City)

“Today’s hearing confirms the Justice Department report that the pattern of abuse, including rampant sexual abuse, and systemic failures at Edna Mahan constitutes continued violations of the 8th Amendment of the Constitution and basic human rights. No sentence includes abuse or rape, regardless of the crime for which an inmate was convicted. While the Department of Corrections appears to have made progress in implementing remedial measures and the Dignity Act – and a consent decree and federal monitors are imminent – we also learned that the ombudsperson has not seized upon the opportunity to use last year’s robust legislative reforms to effectuate dynamic change and, worse yet, has been derelict in his duty. We will tour the prison later this month. Outside of the committee process, we will continue to interview subject matter experts and fact witnesses alike, including those with firsthand knowledge of the depravities and goings-on at the facility. Our committees’ work is not done. We will reconvene to consider legislative measures that are responsive to the abuses. Our state has failed to protect these women. There is a culture of impunity at Edna Mahan, when there needs to be a culture of accountability.”

Assembly Women and Children’s Chairwoman Gabriela Mosquera (D-Blackwood)

“To say the mistreatment of inmates at the Edna Mahan Correctional Facility is concerning would be a significant understatement. The allegations of physical and sexual abuse that far too many women have endured in this facility are unacceptable. I was appalled by recent reports of correctional officers abusing their power to degrade, injure and ultimately violate the rights of the women in their care. The fact that this is not the first time our state has looked into similar allegations at the same facility makes this matter all the more troubling. This pattern of abuse cannot go on. As Speaker Coughlin has said – we need answers and we need reform. This hearing will help us determine what changes need to be made on behalf of the vulnerable inmates in this facility going forward. We have a lot of work to do.”

Senate Majority Leader Loretta Weinberg (D-Teaneck)

“The Administration’s need to pay $21 million to settle civil lawsuits stemming from sexual assaults, beatings, brutality and misconduct by corrections officers at the Edna Mahan Correctional Facility for Women from 2014 to the present is just further evidence of an institution in crisis where a culture of abuse has been allowed to fester for years. We are anxiously awaiting the results of the investigation commissioned by the Governor’s Office. This large settlement looks like it could be the first result.”

State Sen. Dawn Addiego (D-Evesham)

“This unprecedented settlement is just further proof that a change in leadership is needed at the Department of Corrections to change the culture at Edna Mahan. Corrections Commissioner Marcus Hicks needs to resign or be fired.”

Assemblywoman Valerie Vainieri Huttle (D-Englewood)

“For years, I have fought for improved transparency and protections at Edna Mahan Correctional Facility. Together with Assemblywoman Yvonne Lopez, I have authored landmark laws to ensure that instances of abuse are investigated and that inmates are treated with dignity and respect. Today, I renew my call for the resignation of Corrections Commissioner Marcus Hicks, I am also calling for the release of details on the $21 million settlements reached with current and former inmates. The settlement is evidence of the systemic abuses at Edna Mahan Correctional Facility, it is also evidence of the need for improved leadership and accountability at the facility.”

Assemblyman Gordon Johnson (D-Englewood)

“It is clear there are significant and alarming systemic issues at the Edna Mahan Correctional Facility. Taking advantage of one’s position of authority to abuse and violate others is deplorable.  All those in the chain of command must be held accountable for their actions. 

“The testimony we heard today, particularly from those previously incarcerated at Edna Mahan was heartbreaking and remarkably disturbing.

“The hearing held today was a step toward justice for the women who have been mistreated. It is clear that reforms must be made to facilities such as Edna Mahan Correctional Facility. Improvements in policy are absolutely necessary to remove the abhorrent behavior we have heard and read about, and right the wrongs that continue to take place at Edna Mahan.

“We must ensure the safety and dignity of all incarcerated people in our state. Today’s hearing will inform us in crafting legislation to ensure just that.”

State Sen. Linda Greenstein (D-Plainsboro)

“This taxpayer-funded settlement shows the need for permanent reform to protect the inmates of Edna Mahan and other vulnerable populations under the supervision of the State. The best way to accomplish that is by creating an independent public advocate, as we have proposed.”

Assemblywoman Jean Stanfield (R-Westampton)

“Today marks the start of the fourth investigation into the horrors at Edna Mahan Correctional Facility, perpetrated under the leadership of Corrections Commissioner Marcus Hicks. And yet there have been zero hearings on my bipartisan impeachment resolution that would take real action and remove him from office. We have wasted far too much time and taxpayer money, while women at the facility continue to suffer.”

“Governor Murphy has been paying Mr. Boxer and his firm since 2018 to advise the Department of Corrections. Now we expect that same firm to lead an impartial investigation against Commissioner Hicks? That notion is insulting and ridiculous.”

“Enough is enough! Since Governor Murphy won’t fire Commissioner Hicks, Democratic legislative leaders need to bring a vote now on my bipartisan articles of impeachment, so we can remove this man from office before another woman is endangered.”

“I introduced articles of impeachment more than a month ago because I wanted to see action, not feel-good statements from politicians that do nothing to help the situation. I can’t help but feel that starting a fourth investigation is nothing but a stall tactic. It’s time to act.”

Assemblywoman Angela McKnight (D-Jersey City)

“First-person experiences, like the ones we’ve heard today from former inmates, always tell the real story. There are no words for the beyond dreadful experiences of the women in Edna Mahan Correctional Facility and no excuses for there not to be action taken to fix this broken system in our prisons, especially at Edna Mahan.

“After hours of testimony, which I thank all for sharing their stories and expertise, we have heard in-depth about the inhumane and degrading culture of this facility. It’s horrifying. I am severely disappointed in the operation of this prison. This should not happen in our state.

“Change must occur immediately. The women in Edna Mahan, and matter of fact as a witness brought up, all inmates deserve better care, respect, and protection while in any of our prison facilities. This should remain their civil right even while incarcerated.

“I look forward to working with the committees further on the concerns and ideas raised today.”

Assemblywomen Aura Dunn (R-Mendham), Nancy Munoz (R-Summit) and Assemblymen Bob Auth (R-Old Tappan) and Christopher DePhillips (R-Wyckoff)

“We are disgusted that Governor Murphy has failed to take any sort of action. There is a complete lack of leadership from the top of the Department of Corrections that trickles down to the intolerable operations at the Edna Mahan women’s prison which requires a new commissioner and ombudsman immediately,”

 

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