Officials are horrified and shocked at a recent report by the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) alleging sexual abuse at the Edna Mahan Correctional Facility for Women in Clinton, NJ.

The DOJ’s Civil Rights Division and the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of New Jersey concluded that there is reasonable cause to believe that the conditions at the prison violate the Eighth Amendment of the Constitution guaranteeing prisoners reasonable safety from harm.

“Sexual abuse should not be a part of any prisoner’s punishment. Our investigation found reasonable cause to conclude that women prisoners at Edna Mahan are at substantial risk of sexual abuse by staff because systemic deficiencies discourage prisoners from reporting sexual abuse and allow sexual abuse to occur undetected and undeterred,” said Assistant Attorney General Eric Dreiband for the Civil Rights Division.

State and federal agencies initiated the investigation in April 2018 under the Civil Rights of Institutionalized Persons Act (CRIPA), which authorizes the department to take action to address a pattern or practice of deprivation of constitutional rights of individuals confined to state or local government-run correctional facilities.

“Sexual abuse cannot be tolerated in any setting, including in prisons and jails,” said U.S. Attorney Craig Carpenito. “We have been encouraged by the State’s cooperation throughout our investigation, and stated commitment to ending sexual abuse at Edna Mahan. We hope to continue to work with New Jersey to resolve these significant concerns.”

Current and former inmate-victims at the women’s prison are now speaking out through their attorneys in support of the federal investigation.

Attorney Oliver T. Barry, of Barry, Corrado, Grassi & Gillin-Schwartz, PC, of Wildwood, N.J., which represents 14 of the abuse victims, said his clients––some of whom are still incarcerated and had cooperated in the DOJ probe despite fear of reprisal––“…felt vindicated when they learned that the report had substantiated their claims that Edna Mahan ‘fails to protect women prisoners from sexual abuse by staff in violation of the [civil rights]; and exposes women prisoners to substantial risk of serious harm from sexual abuse in violation of [their civil rights].’”

Through a spokesperson, the New Jersey Department of Corrections (DOC) said in a statement that the alleged sexual abuse occurred during the previous administration.

“The DOC remains committed to ensuring the safety of all those in its care, and, in service of that goal, continues to regularly monitor and evaluate its operations, programs and services,” the spokesperson said in a published report.