Assistant U.S. Attorney General Kristen Clarke and acting U.S. Attorney Rachael Honig jointly announced today that the Civil Rights Division of the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) and the State of New Jersey have reached a proposed consent decree settling claims from the DOJ that prisoners’ constitutional rights were violated at the Edna Mahan Correctional Facility for Women.
The prison, which was investigated for sexual abuse by the U.S. Attorney’s office and the DOJ in 2020, has been rocked by repeated instances of sexual assault, including most recently a series of violent attacks on prisoners by prison guards this past January. Gov. Phil Murphy announced in June that he intended to close the facility.
“Under the proposed consent decree, which must be approved by the courts, the state must institute policies and practices to ensure that prisoners are protected from harm due to sexual abuse through appropriate prisoner supervision, effective and confidential methods for reporting of sexual abuse, protections against retaliation for reporting sexual abuse, and improved measures to ensure that staff are held accountable for misconduct,” Clarke said.
She added that the decree mandates greater transparency and the implementation of a public meeting system, which would involve former Edna Mahan prisoners, prisoner advocates, and the families of those currently incarcerated.
“This agreement sets forth the remedies necessary to protect the constitutional rights of prisoners to reasonable safety from sexual abuse by prison staff,” Clarke said.
Although Murphy has declared his intention to close the facility, the consent decree will still apply to any current or future prisoners at Edna Mahan no matter where they reside, as well as any prisoners at facilities built to replace Edna Mahan.
The DOJ and State of New Jersey have jointly proposed a monitor tasked with overseeing compliance of the consent decree: Jane Parnell, a former prison administrator in Washington State.