Last week, New Jersey Attorney General Gurbir S. Grewal announced criminal charges against three suspended correctional police officers for their alleged roles in an incident where inmates were assaulted and seriously injured at the Edna Mahan Correctional Facility for Women in Clifton in January.
The charges were filed in an ongoing investigation by the AG’s Office of Public Integrity and Accountability and the Hunterdon County Prosecutor’s Office, conducted with the assistance of the New Jersey Department of Corrections Special Investigations Division.
“Edna Mahan has a long, ugly history—one that has justifiably attracted scrutiny from county, state and federal investigators,” said Grewal. “That’s why we must do more than simply figure out what went wrong on January 11. We must hold the responsible parties accountable, and we must fix the systemic failures that made this incident possible.”
Between Jan. 11 and 12, DOC officers and supervisors assigned to EMCF conducted forced cell extractions of inmates located in the Restorative Housing Unit complex where 21 inmates were housed. One of the correctional police officers involved in the forced cell extractions was Luis Garcia, and two of the supervisors who were involved in and oversaw them were Sgt. Amir Bethea and Sgt. Anthony Valvano.
It’s alleged that the officers pepper-sprayed and brutally beat the female victims. Garcia allegedly punched and struck one victim 28 times. Charges against Garcia, Bethea and Valvano include aggravated assault, official misconduct and tampering with public records and information.
“Correctional police officers are entrusted with great authority over the inmates in their custody, which can lead to great harm if they maliciously abuse that authority, as alleged here,” said acting prosecutor Williams. “We won’t tolerate such conduct. We’re working diligently to identify all who took part in these alleged crimes and make sure they are prosecuted to the full extent of the law.”
Following the incident, the AG’s office deployed victim-witness advocates to speak with the inmates who were targeted and to help them obtain the medical and psychological services they need.
In response to the allegations, the New Jersey Law Enforcement Supervisors Association is stressing that the corrections officers charged are innocent until proven guilty.
“Recognizing the allegations are somewhat troubling, the NJLESA stresses the importance of a full and fair investigation being conducted so that all the relevant facts and evidence regarding the incidents at issue can be obtained,” organization officials said in a statement. “Until that time, all conclusions, determinations, and/or judgments regarding the officers charged must be reserved.”