Feds: Staff At NJ Women's Prison Sexually Abused Inmates

Staff members at a New Jersey prison for women sexually abused inmates, federal prosecutors said Monday.

Edna Mahan Correctional Facility
Edna Mahan Correctional Facility Photo Credit:

Evidence shows that the Edna Mahan Correctional Facility for Women in Clinton "fails to protect prisoners from sexual abuse by the facility’s staff," U.S. Attorney Craig Carpenito said Monday.

This violates the Eighth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, Carpenito said.

The U.S. Justice Department served notice on the Hunterdon County facility "for these alleged conditions and the minimum remedial measures necessary to address them," he said.

In turn, Carpenito said, state officials have cooperated and shown a "commitment to ending sexual abuse at Edna Mahan," which authorities said could prevent official charges from being filed. 

“Sexual abuse cannot be tolerated in any setting, including in prisons and jails,” the U.S. attorney said. "We hope to continue to work with New Jersey to resolve these significant concerns.”

Formerly the Clinton Correctional Facility for Women, Edna Mahan "provides custody and treatment programs for female offenders ages 16 and older," according to a state website. 

It achieved popular notice as a stop on Bob Dylan's Rolling Thunder Revue Tour in December 1975 and notoriety after Joanne Chesimard escaped with help from armed members of the Black Liberation Army who took two officers hostage in November 1979.

Edna Mahan also has had a history of sexual incidents:

  • A guard was fired in 1994 for having sex with an inmate;
  • Another was fired and prosecuted a year later for a similar crime;
  • Three different staff members were accused of having sex with inmates in 1998;
  • Another was charged with sexually assaulting two inmates 10 times between 1997 and 1999;
  • A staffer was sentenced to five years in prison for taking photos of an inmate whom he paid to "flash" for the camera in 2002;
  • Another was charged in 2008 with smuggling in a phone and a pregnancy test for an inmate he was having sex with; 
  • A staffer was sentenced to three years in prison in 2017 for having sex with an imate;
  • Another was accused but never charged with having sex with six different inmates whom he reportedly paid $75,000.

A federal investigation launched in April 2018 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,” Assistant Attorney General Eric Dreiband of the Justice Department's Civil Rights Division said Monday.

Handling the case for the government is Assistant U.S. Attorney Michael E. Campion, chief of the Civil Rights Unit; Assistant U.S. Attorney Kelly Horan Florio of the Civil Rights Unit; Mary Bohan, deputy chief of the Civil Rights Division’s Special Litigation Section and Kerry Krentler Dean, trial attorney for the Special Litigation Section.

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