The New Jersey Department of Corrections reached a $20.8 million settlement with more than 20 former and current female inmates who were sexually abused at Edna Mahan Correctional Facility for women in Clinton, N.J.
Some of the cases stem back to 2014 with several women being sexually abused by corrections officers. In several instances inmates were forced to do sexual favors in exchange for privileges.
NJDOC says the settlement covers fees for women who were either directly impacted by
sexual misconduct or who were incarcerated in the facility between 2014 and the date of court approval of the settlement.
“As the Department seeks resolution on this matter, which covers claims from inmates at
EMCFW from 2014-present, this administration, under my leadership, reaffirms its commitment
to operate safe and humane facilities,” said NJDOC Commissioner Marcus O. Hicks, Esq. “My administration is ushering in a new era in corrections, with safety and rehabilitation at its core.”
Last April, the Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division concluded that there was reasonable cause to believe that the conditions at Edna Mahan violated the U.S. Constitution. The DOJ said that the prison failed to protect prisoners from sexual abuse by the facility’s staff.
Documented incidents of sexual misconduct at Edna Mahan go back nearly 30 years. More than 30 correctional staff members were suspended at the prison in January and eight officers and supervisors were recently charged with assault and misconduct. Corrections Ombudsman Dan DiBenedetti resigned a day after a State Assembly hearing on the treatment of women at Edna Mahan.
“Sexual abuse should not be a part of any prisoner’s punishment,” said Assistant Attorney General Eric Dreiband for the Civil Rights Division. “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.”
Earlier this month, NJDOC received body cams for corrections officers as part of a pilot program. The cameras were funded by a $250,000 grant from the DOJ. The program will initially launch at Edna Mahan.
Senate Majority Leader Loretta Weinberg and several other lawmakers are demanding the release of details on the $20.8 million in settlements. Specifically, they want a breakdown of the civil lawsuits settled, copies of the complaints and when they were filed. They also want to know whether the settlements included non-disclosure agreements that would prevent the complainants from speaking out about the abuses they suffered.
“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,” said Weinberg.