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Inmates at women’s prison horrifically abused by guards and forced to have sex with each other, investigation finds

Lily Wakefield April 14, 2020
womens prison

A group of officers had 'viewing parties' of a prisoner with mental illness on suicide watch. (Envato)

Inmates at New Jersey’s only state women’s prison were horrifically abused by guards and forced to have sex with each other, an investigation has found.

A damning 31-page report on Edna Mahan Correctional Facility for Women in Clinton, New Jersey, has been produced after an investigation by the Justice Department’s civil rights division and the US attorney’s office in New Jersey.

It found that the facility violated constitutional rights of inmates.

According to the report, between October 2016 and April 2019 seven correction officers and one civilian employee at the women’s prison “were arrested, indicted, convicted, or pled guilty to charges related to sexual abuse of the prisoners they were assigned to supervise”.

Guard made prisoner keep watch as he sexually abused her.

It stated that there were many substantiated incidents of abuse by prison staff, including “unwanted and coerced sexual contact or sexual penetration”.

As well as this, prisoners were made to undress or masturbate in their cells while staff watched, and were forced to engage in “sexual acts” with each other.

It was also reported that “a group of officers had ‘viewing parties’ of a prisoner with mental illness on suicide watch” who was instructed to undress and dance for them.

On at least one occasion, “a correction officer forced a prisoner to keep watch as he sexually abused her to prevent detection of his crimes”.

Homophobic and sexist language was common among prison staff.

Correction officers and other staff were also found to “routinely” refer to inmates using homophobic and sexist language, and “graphically comment on prisoners’ physical appearance or remark about their perceived sexual inclinations and histories”.

According to the report: “The incidents of sexual abuse follow similar patterns where officers and staff sexually assault and harass women who are vulnerable to sexual abuse and fear retaliation, violence, deprivation of privileges, or endure sexual abuse in exchange for food, medication, or contraband, in violation of the prisoners’ constitutional rights.”

It said that officials at the prison and the New Jersey Department of Corrections were made aware of the abuse at the women’s prison, but “failed to adequately address the deficiencies that enabled the abuse to occur”.

Eric Dreiband, assistant attorney general for the Justice Department’s civil rights division said in a statement accompanying the report: “Sexual abuse should not be a part of any prisoner’s punishment.

“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.”

New Jersey corrections says improvements are underway.

According to the New York Times, the Justice Department said it could sue the New Jersey Department of Correction if officials did not address the problems laid out in the report in 49 days.

A spokesman for the New Jersey Department of Corrections told the Times it has assembled a task force to implement some of the Justice Department’s recommendations.

Matthew Schuman said these include gender restrictions for certain posts, as well as adding more cameras and an early warning system to identify problematic behaviour.

The department has also re-established a board of women to advocate on behalf of inmates, and officers are undergoing more training on gender issues, with the department “committed to ensuring the safety of all those in its care”.

PinkNews has contacted the New Jersey Department of Corrections for further comment.

More: Clinton, Edna Mahan Correctional Facility for Women, inmates, New Jersey, Women's prison

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