The Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division and the U.S. Attorney’s Office for New Jersey today filed a complaint and a proposed consent decree with the State of New Jersey and New Jersey Department of Corrections concerning the Edna Mahan Correctional Facility for Women.
The proposed consent decree, which must still be approved by the court, would resolve the United States’ claims that that the State and the Department of Corrections fails to protect prisoners at Edna Mahan from sexual abuse by the facility’s staff in violation of the U.S. Constitution.
Under the proposed consent decree, the New Jersey Department of Corrections will, among other things, implement policies and practices to ensure that prisoners are protected from harm due to sexual abuse through appropriate prisoner supervision; effective and confidential methods for reporting of sexual abuse; and protections against retaliation for reporting sexual abuse. The proposed consent decree includes improved measures to ensure staff are held accountable for misconduct. It also requires greater transparency, through public meetings with stakeholders, including former Edna Mahan prisoners, prisoner advocates and family members of current Edna Mahan prisoners. The proposed consent decree also appoints an independent monitor who will oversee and assess the State’s compliance with the terms of the proposed consent decree. If the State of New Jersey closes Edna Mahan, the consent decree applies to any facility that replaces the prison.
“Every prisoner deserves to be safe from sexual assault and other forms of sexual abuse by staff, and to be protected from retaliation for reporting abuse,” said Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke for the Justice Department's Civil Rights Division. “Our agreement addresses the systemic issues that have plagued the Edna Mahan facility, ensures that women incarcerated there will receive the basic protections they are entitled to under the Constitution, and requires accountability through public transparency. We will keep working to protect the civil rights, safety and human dignity of all prisoners held inside our jails and prisons, including women prisoners, many of whom have suffered physical and sexual abuse before their incarceration.”
“Our civil rights investigation revealed systemic and long-standing deficiencies in training, supervision, and reporting at Edna Mahan, deficiencies that allowed the sexual abuse of prisoners to occur unabated,” said Acting U.S. Attorney Rachael A. Honig for the District of New Jersey. “The State of New Jersey now has agreed to remediate these deficiencies by entering into this consent decree, and we look forward to continuing to work with the State and the Department of Corrections to ensure that no prisoner faces this kind of abuse in the future, whether at Edna Mahan or any other facility that might replace it.”
The Civil Rights Division and the U.S. Attorney’s Office for District of New Jersey initiated the investigation in April 2018 under the Civil Rights of Institutionalized Persons Act, known as CRIPA, which authorizes the department to take action to address a pattern or practice of deprivation of constitutional rights of individuals confined to state or local government-run correctional facilities. In April 2020, the department provided the State written notice of the alleged unlawful conditions and remedial measures necessary to address them. Specifically, the department concluded that there is reasonable cause to believe that Edna Mahan violated the Eighth Amendment of the Constitution by failing to protect prisoners from sexual abuse by staff.
Individuals with information relevant to department’s investigation of Edna Mahan are encouraged to contact the Department of Justice via email at [email protected] or by phone at 833-341-4675. Additional information about the Civil Rights Division of the Justice Department is available on its website at www.justice.gov/crt. To learn more about civil rights enforcement at the U.S. Attorney’s Office in the District of New Jersey, additional information is available at https://www.justice.gov/usao-nj/civil-rights-enforcement.