New Jersey's governor is moving to close the state's onlyafter reviewing an investigative report detailing a January assault on several inmates. Ten correctional officers have been charged in connection with the attack at the Edna Mahan Correctional Facility for Women.
"I am deeply disturbed and disgusted by the horrific attacks that took place on January 11. Individuals in state custody deserve to be treated with dignity and respect, and the officers involved in this incident, both directly and indirectly, abused their power to send a message that they were in charge," Governor Phil Murphy said in a statement Monday.
"Edna Mahan Correctional Facility for Women has a long history of abusive incidents predating our administration, and we must now commit ourselves to completely breaking this pattern of misconduct to better serve incarcerated women entrusted to the state's care," the statement added.
Murphy said the "only path forward" is to close the facility and relocate inmates. "While this will not happen overnight, I intend to work with legislative leadership during the current budget cycle to allocate funding to begin this multi-year process."
The 75-page investigative report, also released Monday, found that prison staffers used excessive force when removing inmates from their cells, falsified reports about the incidents and did not properly record them. It also said staffers failed to prevent male prison workers from viewing strip searches of female inmates.
The state's attorney general, Gurbir Grewal, has charged 10 correctional officers - eight men and two women - in connection with the attack. One officer is accused of punching an inmate in the face 28 times and his supervisors are accused of covering up the incident.
"Individuals in state custody deserve to be treated with dignity and respect, and the officers involved in this incident, both directly and indirectly, abused their power to send a message that they were in charge," Murphy said in his statement Monday. "The excessive use of force, as outlined in the report, cannot and will not be tolerated by my administration."
Oliver Barry is one of the attorneys representing 22 current and former inmates who have accused correctional officers of sexual misconduct and abuse at the facility. Barry said two legal teams have reached a $20.8 million settlement with the state — which is currently pending court approval.
"It is good to see that it appears the administration is confronting these issues that have been present at Edna Mahan," Barry said Monday. "It is equally important that those [suggested reforms] are now implemented wherever the ultimate landing spot for the female incarcerated population of New Jersey ends up being. "