State com­mis­sion cre­ated by Mur­phy will study what in­mates at say is wide ac­cep­tance of sex­ual abuse »

The Trentonian (Trenton, NJ) - - FRONT PAGE - By Su­laiman Ab­durRah­man Su­laiman@21st-cen­tu­ry­media.com @sab­durr on Twit­ter

TREN­TON » The sick cul­ture of rape at the Edna Ma­han Cor­rec­tional Fa­cil­ity for Women will fi­nally be ex­am­ined by a ded­i­cated panel with the power to rec­om­mend prison re­forms.

Gov. Phil Mur­phy ear­lier this month signed a joint res­o­lu­tion to es­tab­lish a 17-mem­ber Com­mis­sion to Pro­tect New Jer­sey In­mates from Sex­ual As­sault and Sex­ual Mis­con­duct.

Em­ploy­ees at the no­to­ri­ous women’s in­car­cer­a­tion fa­cil­ity in Union Town­ship, Hun­ter­don County, have con­trib­uted to the prison’s wide­spread cul­ture of rape.

The U.S. Depart­ment of Jus­tice in April re­leased a 29-page re­port say­ing that sex­ual abuse of fe­male pris­on­ers by Edna Ma­han correction of­fi­cers and staff is “se­vere and preva­lent through­out the prison,” adding that a “cul­ture of ac­cep­tance” of sex­ual abuse has “per­sisted for many years and con­tin­ues to the present.”

From Oc­to­ber 2016 to Novem­ber 2019, five Edna Ma­han correction of­fi­cers and one civil­ian em­ployee were con­victed or pled guilty to charges re­lated to sex­ual abuse of more than 10 women un­der their watch, ac­cord­ing to the fed­eral re­port, which con­cluded the New Jer­sey Depart­ment of Cor­rec­tions fails to keep in­mates in Edna Ma­han safe from sex­ual abuse by fa­cil­ity staf­fin vi­o­la­tion of the Eighth Amend­ment to the U.S. Con­sti­tu­tion.

The well-doc­u­mented trou­bles at Edna Ma­han prompted State Sen. Linda Green­stein of Plains­boro to spon­sor a res­o­lu­tion es­tab­lish­ing a com­mis­sion to study the is­sue of prisoner abuse.

“While we have en­acted mul­ti­ple pieces of leg­is­la­tion to ad­dress is­sues of sex­ual as­sault and mis­con­duct at Edna Ma­han Cor­rec­tional Fa­cil­ity, it is abun­dantly clear that more needs to be done,” Green­stein, a Demo­crat who rep­re­sents parts of Mercer and Mid­dle­sex coun­ties, said in a re­cent press state­ment. “This com­mis­sion will ex­plore the im­pact and fea­si­bil­ity of po­ten­tial pol­icy changes and ini­tia­tives to put an end to the ram­pant abuse we have seen in re­cent years.”

Mur­phy signed the Green­stein-spon­sored res­o­lu­tion into la­won Sept. 14, and now he must ap­point nine mem­bers onto the 17-mem­ber com­mis­sion, in­clud­ing a for­mer in­mate of the Edna Ma­han Cor­rec­tional Fa­cil­ity for Women.

Other mem­bers on the com­mis­sion would in­clude Demo­cratic and Repub­li­can state law­mak­ers, the DOC com­mis­sioner, the at­tor­ney gen­eral and other Gar­den State of­fi­cials.

The com­mis­sion shall ex­am­ine is­sues af­fect­ing the safety and rights of in­mates in state cor­rec­tional fa­cil­i­ties, in­clud­ing, but not limited to, mat­ters con­cern­ing of­fi­cial mis­con­duct con­vic­tions, pend­ing crim­i­nal charges and civil al­le­ga­tions by Edna Ma­han in­mates of sex­ual as­sault, sex­ual mis­con­duct and sex­ual ha­rass­ment against cor­rec­tional po­lice of­fi­cers, other staff mem­bers, con­trac­tors and vol­un­teers work­ing in the fa­cil­ity, ac­cord­ing to the res­o­lu­tion.

The com­mis­sion also shall as­sess the de­gree of a fa­cil­ity’s com­pli­ance with the pro­vi­sions of the fed­eral Prison Rape Elim­i­na­tion Act of 2003 and con­sider whether it would be ap­pro­pri­ate to es­tab­lish a cit­i­zen over­sight board to mon­i­tor a fa­cil­ity, among other du­ties.

Once the com­mis­sion is up and run­ning, it is ex­pected to pro­duce a fi­nal re­port within a year fea­tur­ing leg­isla­tive pro­pos­als to en­sure New Jer­sey pro­tects all in­mates from sex­ual abuse.

Eight em­ploy­ees at Edna Ma­han were ter­mi­nated for sex­ual mis­con­duct be­tween 2010 and 2016; three in 2010 and five in 2016; six em­ploy­ees have been crim­i­nally charged with sex­ual abuse and of­fi­cial mis­con­duct in the last two years; and the state at­tor­ney gen­eral sub­se­quently has hired le­gal coun­sel to an­a­lyze the “ad­min­is­tra­tive pro­to­cols and in­ves­ti­ga­tory re­sponses” at Edna Ma­han, ac­cord­ing to the joint res­o­lu­tion es­tab­lish­ing the 17-mem­ber com­mis­sion.

In ad­di­tion to the crim­i­nal pros­e­cu­tions, at least five civil law­suits have been filed by Edna Ma­han in­mates against the DOC since 2017, in­clud­ing a class-ac­tion law­suit claim­ing “sys­temic, in­ap­pro­pri­ate, and il­le­gal treat­ment of the plain­tiff in­mates re­sult­ing from a long­stand­ing, prison-wide cul­ture of sex­ual abuse,” ac­cord­ing to the Green­stein-spon­sored res­o­lu­tion.

Green­stein chairs the New Jer­sey Se­nate’s Law and Pub­lic Safety Com­mit­tee.

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