Report: New Jersey Women’s Prison Promoted Culture of Abuse
After years of allegations of sexual assault against prisoners, the Civil Rights Division of the DOJ and the USAO initiated an investigation April 26, 2018 under the Civil Rights of Institutionalized Persons Act (CRIPA). The Act was designed to protect prisoners from facilities exhibiting a pattern or practice that resulted in violations of the prisoners’ civil rights. The report investigated 70 separate instances of alleged sexual abuse at EMCFW over several years, with many guards and employees being charged, suspended or fired. Between 2016 and 2019, seven EMCFW guards and “one civilian employee” had been convicted or pleaded guilty to charges of sexual abuse.
Officials of EMCFW were found to have “evinced a deliberate indifference to prisoners’ constitutional rights.” Prisoners who reported abuse were ignored, retaliated against or locked up in confinement. The report further stated that the Special Investigation Division (SID) was inadequate when handling allegations from prisoners at EMCFW. “SID conducted insufficient investigations, closed investigations as unsubstantiated without applying the appropriate standard of evidence, and failed to investigate some incidents at all,” the report read.
The DOJ found that some SID investigators were involved in personal relationships with the suspects of their inquiries. One SID investigator failed to report that he had been a guest in the home of a senior official who was being investigated for marrying a former prisoner. The report said, “If Edna Mahan investigators continue to investigate staff with whom they have personal relationships, Edna Mahan investigations are likely to continue to be tainted.”
The report recommended 19 changes necessary to correct the “problematic and emblematic” dysfunctional system responsible for the continued culture of abuse. Some changes included compliance with national reporting standards, ensuring confidentiality and anonymity if requested, ceasing the automatic transfer of prisoners to segregated housing after reporting sexual abuse, adding more cameras to areas not otherwise visible, and hiring more female guards.
DOC spokesman Matthew Schuman said a task force had been formed implementing many of the recommendations, including more cameras, gender-restricted posts, and creating a prisoner advocacy board.
U.S. Attorney Craig Carpenito said, “We have been encouraged by the state’s cooperation throughout the investigation, and stated commitment to ending sexual abuse at Edna Mahan.”