According to a Justice Department report released this week, Edna Mahan, New Jersey’s only state women’s prison, violated the inmates’ constitutional protections from cruel and unusual punishment. The report indicated that female inmates in the New Jersey prison were regularly forced to perform sex acts on guards and were sexually assaulted while staff members looked on.
Apparently sexual assault and coercion was so prevalent that the Justice Department was in violation of the inmates rights to the point where one inmate reported that she had to act as a lookout for the guard while he was assaulting her.
“Sexual abuse should not be a part of any prisoner’s punishment,” Eric S. Dreiband, the head of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division, said in a statement along with the report. The U.S. attorney’s office in New Jersey investigated and concluded 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.”
It is a possibility that the Justice Department will sue the department if officials do not address the problems laid out in the report.
Matthew Schuman, a spokesman for the New Jersey Department of Corrections, said there is a task force in place to implement some of the recommendations the Justice Department which includes gender restrictions for some posts, more cameras and an early warning system to identify problematic behavior. It has re-established a board of women to advocate on behalf of inmates at the NewJersey prison and officers now undergo more training on gender issues.
The corrections department “remains committed to ensuring the safety of all those in its care,” Mr. Schuman said.
Inmates of Edna Mahan, a 700-person facility, have complained for decades that sexual assault is an “open secret,” the department found.