(The Center Square) – New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy said he plans to close Edna Mahan Correctional Facility for Women in Union Township, a facility the governor said has “a long history of abusive incidents.”
The announcement coincided with the release of an investigative report from former State Comptroller and federal prosecutor Matt Boxer into Jan. 11 “cell extractions” and an allegation of sexual assault at the facility.
“After reading the report and its recommendations, I have decided that the only path forward is to responsibly close the facility,” Murphy said in a news release.
“I look forward to working with our partners in the Legislature to responsibly close down the Edna Mahan Correctional Facility for Women and relocate inmates to a new facility or other facilities,” Murphy added. “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.”
Additionally, officials have filed charges against 10 corrections officers related to the cell extractions. The charges are part of an ongoing investigation by the attorney general’s Office of Public Integrity and Accountability (OPIA) and the Hunterdon County Prosecutor’s Office.
In April 2020, the United States Department of Justice said it believed the New Jersey Department of Corrections “fails to keep prisoners at Edna Mahan safe from sexual abuse by staff.”
Separately, a bipartisan group of state lawmakers has supported a push to impeach New Jersey Department of Corrections Commissioner Marcus Hicks. The state also reached a $20.8 million settlement with current and former inmates at Edna Mahan.
To prepare the report, Boxer and a team with law firm Lowenstein Sandler LLP reviewed more than 21,000 documents and more than 20 hours of video footage in addition to conducting interviews and reviewing “relevant legal standards and best practices,” according to a news release.
Sen. Kristin Corrado, R-Bergen, was unimpressed by Murphy's announcement.
“The abuses and sexual assaults that occurred at Edna Mahan were the result of poor leadership by Governor Murphy and NJDOC Commissioner Hicks and their failure to heed federal warnings or hold abusive staff accountable," she said in a statement. "It’s unclear how closing the facility at taxpayer expense will remedy the leadership concerns that will persist regardless of where the inmates are located. The building didn’t fail these women, the Murphy administration did.”