Skip navigation

Department of Justice, Investigation of the Edna Mahan Correctional Facility for Women, 2020

Download original document:
Brief thumbnail
This text is machine-read, and may contain errors. Check the original document to verify accuracy.
INVESTIGATION OF THE
EDNA MAHAN CORRECTIONAL
FACILITY FOR WOMEN
(UNION TOWNSHIP, NEW JERSEY)

United States Department of Justice
Civil Rights Division
United States Attorney’s Office
District of New Jersey
April, 2020

TABLE OF CONTENTS

I.

SUMMARY............................................................................................................ 1

II.

INVESTIGATION.................................................................................................. 2

III.

THE EDNA MAHAN CORRECTIONAL FACILITY FOR WOMEN ................ 2

IV.

CONDITIONS IDENTIFIED................................................................................. 3

V.

Staff Sexual Abuse of Edna Mahan Prisoners Violates Prisoners’
Constitutional Rights .................................................................................. 3
B.
Inadequate Systems for Preventing, Detecting, and Responding to Sexual
Abuse Place Edna Mahan Prisoners at Substantial Risk of Serious Harm
from Staff Sexual Abuse............................................................................. 8
C.
Officials at Edna Mahan Knew of the Risk to Prisoners from Staff Sexual
Abuse and Disregarded It.......................................................................... 22
MINIMAL REMEDIAL MEASURES................................................................. 27

VI.

CONCLUSION..................................................................................................... 29

A.

I.

SUMMARY

The Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division and the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the
District of New Jersey (Department) provide notice, pursuant to the Civil Rights of
Institutionalized Persons Act, 42 U.S.C. §§ 1997 et seq. (CRIPA), that there is reasonable cause
to believe, based on the totality of the conditions, practices, and incidents discovered that: (1)
conditions at the Edna Mahan Correctional Facility for Women (Edna Mahan) violate the Eighth
Amendment of the United States Constitution due to the sexual abuse of prisoners by the
facility’s staff; and (2) these violations are pursuant to a pattern or practice of resistance to the
full enjoyment of rights protected by the Eighth Amendment. The Department does not serve as
a tribunal authorized to make factual findings and legal conclusions binding on, or admissible in,
any court, and nothing in this Notice of Investigative Conclusions (Notice) should be construed
as such. Accordingly, this Notice is not intended to be admissible evidence and does not create
any legal rights or obligations.
Specifically, the United States provides notice that the State of New Jersey, through the
New Jersey Department of Corrections (NJDOC), fails to keep prisoners at Edna Mahan safe
from sexual abuse by staff. From October 2016 to November 2019, five Edna Mahan correction
officers and one civilian employee were convicted or pled guilty to charges related to sexual
abuse of more than 10 women under their watch. For example:
•

In May 2018, an Edna Mahan correction officer was found guilty of five counts of
sexually abusing prisoners. According to the sentencing judge, the “pervasive
culture” at Edna Mahan allowed this correction officer to abuse his “position of
authority to indulge in [his] own sexual stimulation.”

•

In July 2018, another Edna Mahan correction officer pled guilty to three counts of
official misconduct after he admitted sexually abusing three separate prisoners.

•

In January 2019, another correction officer pled guilty to official misconduct charges
after admitting that he repeatedly sexually abused two Edna Mahan prisoners over a
period of several years. In sentencing him, the New Jersey court concluded that the
officer had “sexually assaulted a vulnerable population.”

Another Edna Mahan correction officer has been indicted for charges related to sexual abuse of
prisoners and is pending trial. Long-standing problems with staff sexual abuse at Edna Mahan
have been documented for decades. Despite being on notice of this sexual abuse, NJDOC and
Edna Mahan failed to take timely action to remedy the systemic problems that enabled correction
officers and other staff to continue to sexually abuse Edna Mahan prisoners. Women have
suffered actual harm from sexual abuse and are at substantial risk of serious harm because the
systems in place at Edna Mahan discourage prisoners from reporting sexual abuse and allow
sexual abuse to occur undetected and undeterred.
Consistent with the statutory requirements of CRIPA, we write this Notice to notify New
Jersey of the Department’s conclusions with respect to these constitutional violations, the facts

1

supporting those conclusions, and the minimum remedial measures necessary to address the
identified deficiencies.
II.

INVESTIGATION

On April 26, 2018, the Department notified the State of New Jersey of our intent to
conduct an investigation of Edna Mahan pursuant to CRIPA. Our investigation focused on
whether there is reasonable cause to believe that Edna Mahan violates the constitutional rights of
women prisoners by failing to take measures to reasonably protect them from the harm of staff
sexual abuse during their incarceration at Edna Mahan.
Two expert consultants in correctional operations and sexual safety of incarcerated
persons assisted with our investigation. One of our experts is a former high-ranking corrections
official with significant experience leading correctional facilities and consulting with
departments of correction. Our other expert is an attorney with specific expertise in reviewing
conditions in correctional facilities, and a certified Prison Rape Elimination Act (PREA)1
Auditor and Field Training Auditor.
In July 2018, representatives from the Department and our experts conducted a four-day,
on-site review of Edna Mahan. Over the course of our visit, we interviewed NJDOC and Edna
Mahan administrative staff, security staff, medical and mental health staff, and prisoners. In
preparation for and during our on-site review, we reviewed documentation produced by Edna
Mahan and NJDOC. Over the course of on-site review, we toured the entire compound, at
different time intervals, including the late shift hours. We observed and met with prisoners in
various settings throughout the facility, including all security levels, vocational opportunities,
and restrictive housing units. We conducted exit conferences with Edna Mahan and NJDOC
officials upon the conclusion of our visit in order to provide transparency and technical
assistance during the course of the investigation. Both NJDOC officials and the Edna Mahan
Administration and staff cooperated with and facilitated our on-site review.
Following our on-site review, we requested and the State produced additional
documentation relevant to our investigation. The State has fully cooperated with our
investigation and has produced over 33,000 pages of documents. The Department and its experts
conducted extensive document review of policies and procedures, staffing information, prisoner
files, incident reports, investigative reports, disciplinary reports, administrative audit reports,
prisoner grievances, unit logs, orientation materials, training materials, and quality assurance
materials. The State also provided updated information as to its efforts to address issues related
to sexual abuse.
III.

THE EDNA MAHAN CORRECTIONAL FACILITY FOR WOMEN

Edna Mahan opened as the State Reformatory for Women at Clinton in 1913. It is New
Jersey’s only prison facility for state-sentenced women prisoners. The prison is located in Union
Township, Hunterdon County, in western New Jersey, near the Pennsylvania border. Edna
Mahan is comprised of three housing compounds, with ten operable housing buildings, and
1

34 U.S.C. § 30301 et seq.

2

various support buildings. It shares administrative services with the nearby Mountainview
Youth Correctional Facility in Annandale, New Jersey. As the only women’s prison operated by
NJDOC, Edna Mahan houses women of all custody levels. There is one housing compound for
minimum security prisoners, one for maximum and medium security prisoners, and a third
housing compound for prisoners with mental health needs. The population of the facility during
the Department’s July 2018 on-site review was 655 women prisoners. The State reports Edna
Mahan’s population capacity as approximately 710.
IV.

CONDITIONS IDENTIFIED

NJDOC and Edna Mahan are violating the Constitution by failing to protect prisoners
from serious harm and a substantial risk of serious harm. See Farmer v. Brennan, 511 U.S. 825,
833 (1994); Helling v. McKinney, 509 U.S. 25, 33-35 (1993). The Department’s investigation
has uncovered facts that provide reasonable cause to conclude that Edna Mahan (1) fails to
protect women prisoners from sexual abuse by staff in violation of the Eighth Amendment; and
(2) exposes women prisoners to substantial risk of serious harm from sexual abuse in violation of
the Eighth Amendment. Systemic failures in Edna Mahan’s policies and practices discourage
reporting of sexual abuse; do not provide an adequate response to and investigations of
allegations of prisoner sexual abuse; and result in inadequate supervision that provides
opportunities for further sexual abuse.
As detailed below, the combination of numerous, specific and repeated violations of the
Eighth Amendment at Edna Mahan, taken together with multiple deficient policies and practices
that caused or contributed to those violations, is sufficient to establish a pattern or practice of
constitutional violations under CRIPA. CRIPA authorizes the Attorney General to investigate
and take appropriate action to enforce the constitutional rights of prisoners whose rights are
violated subject to a pattern or practice of unconstitutional conduct or conditions. 42 U.S.C. §
1997. To establish a pattern or practice of violations, the United States must “establish by a
preponderance of the evidence that [] [violating federal law] was . . . the regular rather than the
unusual practice.” See Int’l Bhd. of Teamsters v. United States, 431 U.S. 324, 336 (1977). In
some sections we provide more examples to illustrate the variety of circumstances in which the
violation occurs, while in others we focus on one or two examples that demonstrate the nature of
the violations we found. The number of examples included in a particular section is not
indicative of the number of violations we found. These examples comprise a small subset of the
total number of incidents upon which we base our conclusions.
A.

Staff Sexual Abuse of Edna Mahan Prisoners Violates Prisoners’ Constitutional
Rights
1. Failure to Protect Prisoners from Harm from Sexual Abuse Violates the Eighth
Amendment.

The Eighth Amendment governs “the treatment a prisoner receives in prison and the
conditions under which [s]he is confined.” Helling, 509 U.S. at 31. Prisons are required under
the Eighth Amendment to protect prisoners from a range of types of harm and to take reasonable
measures to protect prisoners’ safety. Farmer, 511 U.S. at 832 (citing Hudson v. Palmer, 468
3

U.S. 517, 526-527 (1984)). This requirement includes protection of a prisoner’s right to be free
of sexual abuse by prison employees while in confinement. Roten v. McDonald, 394 F. App’x
836, 840 (3d Cir. 2010) (citing Beers-Capitol, 256 F.3d at 142 n. 15)). Staff sexual abuse of
prisoners is “objectively, sufficiently serious to constitute an Eighth Amendment violation.”
White v. Ottinger, 442 F. Supp. 2d 236, 248 (E.D. Pa. 2006). As the Supreme Court has held,
sexual abuse is not part of any person’s punishment, regardless of the crime for which she or he
was convicted. Farmer, 511 U.S. at 834. “Our society requires prisoners to give up their liberty,
but that surrender does not encompass the basic right to be free from severe unwanted sexual
contact.” Ricks v. Shover, 891 F.3d 468, 471 (3d Cir. 2018).
In determining whether a punishment is cruel and unusual in violation of the Eighth
Amendment, the courts look to “contemporary standards of decency.” Pearson v. Prison Health
Serv., 850 F.3d 526, 534 (3d Cir. 2017) (quoting Helling, 509 U.S. at 32); see also Estelle, 429
U.S. at 102. In the Third Circuit, consideration of contemporary standards of decency begins by
reviewing “objective indicia of consensus, as expressed in particular by the enactments of
legislatures that have addressed the question.” Ricks, 891 F.3d at 477 (quoting Roper v.
Simmons, 543 U.S. 551, 564 (2005). Under New Jersey state law, it is a crime for prison staff to
have sexual contact with prisoners. N.J. Stat. Ann. § 2C:14-2c(2) (defining “sexual assault” to
include “sexual penetration” where the victim is in prison and “the actor has supervisory or
disciplinary power over the victim by virtue of the actor’s legal, professional or occupational
status”); N.J. Stat. Ann. § 2C:14-3b (defining “aggravated criminal sexual contact” to include an
“act of sexual contact” where the victim is in prison and “the actor has supervisory or
disciplinary power over the victim by virtue of the actor’s legal, professional or occupational
status”).
Specifically, the Third Circuit has declined to “craft a mechanical test for when sexual
contact is objectively, sufficiently serious. The scope, place and timing of the offensive conduct
will bear on its severity, as will the details of the alleged contact. But it goes without saying that
objectively serious sexual contact would include sexualized fondling, coerced sexual activity,
combinations of ongoing harassment and abuse, and exchanges of sexual activity for special
treatment or to avoid discipline.” Ricks, 891 F.3d at 478 (emphasis added).
Prison conditions violate the Eighth Amendment’s prohibition against cruel and unusual
punishment if they result in deliberate indifference to a substantial risk of serious harm to
prisoners. Farmer, 511 U.S. at 828. To establish deliberate indifference, one must meet both
objective and subjective requirements. Id. at 834. An official acts with deliberate indifference
when she or he “knows of and disregards an excessive risk to inmate health or safety; the official
must both be aware of facts from which the inference could be drawn that a substantial risk of
serious harm exists, and he must also draw the inference.” Id. at 837.
In the Third Circuit, to state a claim of deliberate indifference, prisoners “must show that
the defendants knew or were aware of and disregarded an excessive risk to [prisoners’] health or
safety,” which can be shown “by establishing that the risk was obvious.” Beers-Capitol v.
Whetzel, 256 F.3d 120, 135 (3d Cir. 2001). It is not necessary to show a physical injury in the
case of correctional sexual abuse, as the “significant distress and often lasting psychological

4

harm” attributable to sexual abuse are sufficient to establish an Eighth Amendment violation.
Ricks, 891 F.3d at 477 (quoting Washington v. Hively, 695 F.3d 641, 643 (7th Cir. 2012)).
The subjective component requires that the prison official “acted with a sufficiently
culpable state of mind,” while an objective component requires that “the alleged wrongdoing was
objectively harmful enough to establish a constitutional violation.” Hudson v. McMillian, 503
U.S. 1, 8 (1992). The prison officials need not be complicit in the harmful acts, nor have specific
knowledge that a particular prisoner is suffering abuse; “it is enough that the official acted or
failed to act despite his knowledge of a substantial risk of serious harm.” Farmer, 511 U.S. at
839, 842. Prison officials who are aware of a substantial risk to prisoner safety must respond
reasonably to the risk in order to ensure “reasonable safety.” Id. at 844 (noting that prison
officials may avoid liability “if they responded reasonably, even if the harm ultimately was not
averted.”).
In 2003, Congress enacted the Prison Rape Elimination Act (PREA) to combat sexual
abuse in correctional settings. 34 U.S.C. § 30301 et seq. In 2012, the Attorney General
published the National Standards to Prevent, Detect, and Respond to Prison Rape (PREA
standards). 28 C.F.R. § 115 et seq. The PREA standards require zero tolerance for sexual abuse
and sexual harassment of prisoners and detail a series of policy and practice reforms aimed at
reducing correctional sexual abuse and sexual harassment and ensuring an adequate response to
allegations of sexual abuse or sexual harassment. Although non-compliance with a PREA
standard alone is not sufficient to support a finding of a constitutional violation, the PREA
standards provide notice to jurisdictions of their obligations to protect prisoners from sexual
abuse and sexual harassment. Knowledge of, and failure to comply with, the PREA standards
can serve as further evidence of subjective recklessness with regard to prisoner safety. Farmer,
511 U.S. at 843; see also Crawford v. Cuomo, 796 F.3d 252 (2d Cir. 2015) (finding PREA and
other such legislative enactments to be reliable evidence of contemporary standards of decency,
and thus relevant in evaluating whether specific acts of sexual abuse or sexual harassment rise to
an Eighth Amendment claim). “Whether a prison official had the requisite knowledge of a
substantial risk is a question of fact subject to demonstration in the usual ways, including
inference from circumstantial evidence.” Farmer, 511 U.S. at 842.
2. Edna Mahan Prisoners Have Suffered Serious Harm from Staff Sexual Abuse and
the Substantial Risk of Serious Harm.
Sexual abuse of women prisoners by Edna Mahan correction officers and staff is severe
and prevalent throughout the prison. A “culture of acceptance” of sexual abuse has persisted for
many years and continues to the present. As observed by one state court in 2018, this “pervasive
culture” has enabled Edna Mahan staff to abuse their authority by “preying on vulnerable women
. . . for sexual gratification.”2
In the course of our investigation, the Department and its experts reviewed 100% of the
investigation files produced by NJDOC of reports of sexual abuse and sexual harassment of Edna
Mahan prisoners over several years, including over 70 investigations of staff-on-prisoner
2

State of New Jersey v. Jason Mays, Judgment of Conviction & Order for Commitment, HNT-16-00671,
CRM2018560286 (Sep. 17, 2018).

5

allegations. Substantiated incidents of staff sexual abuse of prisoners at Edna Mahan are varied
and disturbing. Some staff abused prisoners through unwanted and coerced “sexual contact” or
“sexual penetration.” In other instances, prisoners were forced to perform fellatio on or touch
the “intimate body part” of staff. In still other instances, staff required prisoners to undress or
masturbate in their cells—or even engage in sexual acts with other prisoners—while staff
watched. In at least one instance, a correction officer forced a prisoner to keep watch as he
sexually abused her to prevent detection of his crimes. 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.
Ricks, 891 F.3d at 478 (holding that unconstitutional sexual abuse of prisoners includes
“sexualized fondling, coerced sexual activity, combinations of ongoing harassment and abuse,
and exchanges of sexual activity for special treatment or to avoid discipline”).
During a period dating from October 2016 to April 2019 (a full year after we notified
NJDOC of our investigation), seven Edna Mahan correction officers and one civilian employee
were arrested, indicted, convicted, or pled guilty to charges related to sexual abuse of the
prisoners they were assigned to supervise. Most of the incidents involve senior officers, who had
worked at Edna Mahan for many years, and multiple victims. The Hunterdon County
Prosecutor’s Office remains active pursuing these and other matters related to Edna Mahan.
In May 2018, one correction officer was found guilty of five counts of sexually abusing
prisoners, including sexual assault and criminal sexual contact. While stationed at a housing
unit, he “continuously engag[ed] in inappropriate sexual behavior with women.” With one of the
victims, he frequently solicited sexual intercourse, entered her cell while she was sleeping to
touch her vagina and buttock through her clothing, and made demands that she touch his penis.
To coerce this prisoner to accede to his demands, he threatened her with disciplinary action,
which she believed could have jeopardized her eligibility for parole. Eventually, when the
prisoner was in a room outside the view of others, he put a condom on his penis and sexually
penetrated her vagina. Four other prisoners testified that this officer engaged in similar criminal
sexual contact with them. As the state court observed at sentencing, “[w]hen one victim left your
area and was no longer available to you, you quickly sought another.” With one of those
victims, he required her to “watch for people coming” while he sexually penetrated her. He was
sentenced to sixteen years in prison.
Since 2017, four other correction officers have pled guilty to charges related to their
sexual abuse of prisoners:
•

In November 2019, a female correction officer pled guilty to criminal sexual contact
with an Edna Mahan prisoner. According to the criminal complaint, this officer
committed crimes throughout 2018 by engaging in “sexual conduct” with a prisoner
and by “touching the intimate parts of the victim.”

•

On January 31, 2019, an Edna Mahan correction officer pled guilty to two counts of
official misconduct. This officer, who was originally charged with three counts of
sexual assault and two counts of official misconduct, admitted to repeatedly having
6

sexual intercourse, over a period of several years, with two prisoners in the housing
unit where he was assigned to work and where the prisoners resided. Alarmingly, this
correction officer was tasked to teach newly-hired correction officers that sexual
contact between officers and prisoners was a crime. In June 2019, he was sentenced
to three years in prison. The court applied an aggravating factor to the officer’s
sentence because “the victims were essentially incapable of exercising normal
physical or mental power of resistance as you, as a corrections officer, controlled
their every move. You sexually assaulted them and they were particularly
vulnerable.”
•

On July 10, 2018, another correction officer pled guilty to three counts of official
misconduct. After being charged with sexual assault, criminal sexual contact, and
official misconduct, he admitted to sexual abuse of three separate prisoners. The
prosecutor recommended a sentence of six years in prison. He awaits sentencing.

•

In February 2017, a senior correction officer pled guilty to official misconduct.
According to the criminal complaint, this officer sexually assaulted a prisoner “by
committing an act of sexual penetration” upon the prisoner. The officer, who had
worked at Edna Mahan for seven years, admitted to providing contraband to the
prisoner and bringing her to a staff bathroom – on more than one occasion – to
engage in sexual intercourse. He was sentenced to three years in prison.

In addition to correction officers, Edna Mahan civilian staff have also sexually abused
prisoners. For example, in October 2016, a vocational instructor in the prison kitchen pled guilty
to official misconduct after being charged in connection with trading smuggled cigarettes for sex
with two Edna Mahan prisoners. He was sentenced to three years in prison.
We spoke with dozens of current and former prisoners, staff, investigators,
administrators, and third-parties who credibly described many other incidents of staff-onprisoner sexual abuse. According to these accounts, despite rules to the contrary, some male
correction officers make efforts to watch prisoners as they shower, undress, or use restrooms.
Many report that some correction officers inappropriately grope, and sometimes expose,
prisoners’ breasts and genitals during searches. Similarly, numerous prisoners report that, during
unnecessarily close contact with male correction officers, some correction officers “rub” or
“press themselves” – that is, their clothed genitals – against prisoners. Others report being strip
searched with several other women at the same time or while male correction officers watched.
In one instance, a prisoner reported that a male officer watched as she inserted a tampon. In
another instance, it was reported that a group of officers had “viewing parties” of a prisoner with
mental illness on suicide watch who believed she was a male and would follow officers’
instructions to dance and show her “penis” while undressed.
Correction officers and staff at Edna Mahan routinely refer to prisoners as “bitches,”
“hoes,” “assholes,” “dyke,” “stripper,” “faggot-assed bitch,” “motherfuckers,” and “whores.”
They graphically comment on prisoners’ physical appearance or remark about their perceived
sexual inclinations and histories. For instance, one prisoner reported that a correction officer told

7

her during a strip search that “you gotta trim that bush.” This environment emboldens Edna
Mahan staff to seek out opportunities for sexual abuse.
In addition to the seven correction officers and the civilian staff member who were
criminally charged, NJDOC has fired or indefinitely suspended several other Edna Mahan
employees since 2010 as a result of sexual abuse allegations. Others were permitted to resign.
As discussed in more detail in Section IV.C below, the problem dates back many years without
improvement. Indeed, credible allegations of sexual abuse by both correction officers and
civilian staff continued to surface throughout 2018 and into 2019, despite the attention focused
on the issue. NJDOC and Edna Mahan have been aware that their women prisoners face a
substantial risk of serious harm from sexual abuse, and they have failed to remedy this
constitutional violation.
B.

Inadequate Systems for Preventing, Detecting, and Responding to Sexual Abuse
Place Edna Mahan Prisoners at Substantial Risk of Serious Harm from Staff Sexual
Abuse.

Edna Mahan exposes women prisoners to a substantial risk of serious harm from sexual
abuse because Edna Mahan: (1) deters prisoners from reporting staff sexual abuse due to the
threat of retaliation; (2) fails to respond with appropriate investigations when women do report
abuse; (3) fails to provide effective and confidential reporting mechanisms; and (4) provides
inadequate supervision of prisoners, which presents opportunities for sexual abuse to occur. A
lack of gender-responsive and trauma-informed policies and practices exacerbates these
problems and exposes victims to additional harm. Many prisoners reported that incidents of
sexual abuse are frequently ignored or result in no corrective action. Several prisoners stated that
they tolerate or do not report sexual abuse because they fear reprisal. These systemic
deficiencies combine to result in Edna Mahan’s failure to protect women prisoners from the
harm of sexual abuse.
1. Edna Mahan Prisoners are Reluctant to Report Sexual Abuse Due to Valid Fear of
Retaliation.
a. Edna Mahan Subjects Victims who Report Sexual Abuse to Harsh and
Isolating Conditions.
In order to prevent and detect sexual abuse, a prison must ensure that prisoners and staff
feel safe to report wrongdoing. If prisoners fear retaliation or punishment for reporting, they are
less likely to do so. At Edna Mahan, victims who report sexual abuse are subjected to a process
that they experience as retaliatory, punitive, and traumatic. When an Edna Mahan prisoner
reports an incident of sexual abuse, the reporter is typically immediately taken to the medical
unit for a physical examination in handcuffs and shackles, scanned in the Body Orifice Security
Scanner (B.O.S.S.) chair for contraband, stripped searched, and then taken to the Temporary
Closed Custody Unit (TCC) on the maximum security compound for up to 72 hours, until the
Special Investigations Division (SID) interviews them regarding their complaint. In TCC, they
are held in solitary confinement under many of the same conditions and protocols as in punitive
housing. They are also likely to be moved from their unit or their job, instead of the alleged
8

abuser being moved away from them. This default protocol is followed regardless of the nature
of the abuse (e.g., touching versus penetration) or when the abuse allegedly occurred (several
days or weeks before the report), and without regard to the victim’s physical or emotional state at
the time of the report.3
Prisoners in TCC are subjected to the same conditions and protocols as prisoners in the
disciplinary segregation unit: singled-celled with little to no out-of-cell time in a maximum
security setting. They are also deprived of privileges, such as work opportunities and
programming in the unit. Prisoners therefore view TCC as punitive. Along with fear of
retaliation, the fear of being placed in “lock-up” causes prisoners to be reluctant to report sexual
abuse. For example, one prisoner reported to SID that a sergeant pressed his penis, through his
clothing, against her backside. In response, she was placed in segregated housing, with restricted
out of cell time and privileges. She expressed to the Department that this experience caused her
to fear getting “in trouble for telling.” By setting up a system in which victims feel that they are
being punished for reporting abuse, Edna Mahan effectively discourages prisoners from
reporting incidents of sexual abuse or sexual harassment. Indeed, Edna Mahan investigation
reports revealed that this prisoner was sexually abused by one of the indicted correction officers
and was reported to have been abused by another officer, but she did not report either officer.
The following examples demonstrate how applying this practice as a default is
unnecessary and likely discourages Edna Mahan prisoners from reporting abuse:
•

In May 2018, a prisoner was returned to Edna Mahan from a halfway house after a
third-party reported that the prisoner had been sexually abused by a male staff
member of the community release program. Although the accused staff member was
not at Edna Mahan and could pose no threat to her, the prisoner was isolated in TCC
upon her return to the prison. Prisoners we spoke with, including the alleged victim,
viewed both the removal from the community release program and the involuntary
segregation in TCC as punitive responses to the report of sexual abuse.

•

In April 2018, a prisoner reported that a male sergeant pulled back the curtain while
she was naked and showering to speak with her. After reporting this incident, she
was sent in restraints to the maximum security compound hospital for a medical
evaluation and then to a segregated cell in the Mental Health Transitional Care Unit,
even though she had no prior history of mental health issues while incarcerated.
There was no indication she was in danger of further sexual abuse at the time of her
report and she did not report any physical abuse, so it was inappropriate to subject her
to involuntary segregation and an invasive medical examination.

•

In January 2018, a prisoner reported that a correction officer sexually harassed her by
making sexual comments while she was cleaning during count. Edna Mahan did not
respond to her complaint until a week later, at which time she was pat searched, strip
searched, scanned in the B.O.S.S. chair, handcuffed, and involuntarily segregated in
the TCC. When she had the opportunity to share with SID, she stated that she felt

3

NJDOC has the authority to reassign an officer accused of sexual assault instead of the complainant in order to
separate the two. But it fails to exercise that authority.

9

safe in her housing unit, as long as she was not on the same side of the building as the
officer who sexually harassed her. Indeed, she had remained on the housing unit and
felt secure for an entire week before Edna Mahan finally responded to her complaint
and then segregated her in TCC; there was no imminent risk to her safety that
required involuntary segregation and the accompanying indignities.
•

In October 2017, an Edna Mahan prisoner alleged that a correction officer had rubbed
his penis against her buttocks while she stood in the lunch line. She called the
Ombudsman to report the incident because she was too afraid to report to staff at
Edna Mahan. She was put in restraints, taken for a full medical examination, and
then placed in handcuffs and involuntarily segregated in TCC, even though the
alleged abuse did not occur in her housing unit.

After we advised Edna Mahan that prisoners perceive transfer to TCC following a report of
sexual abuse as punitive or retaliatory, Edna Mahan revised its policy to allow prisoners to retain
their personal belongings and maintain visitation and phone privileges while in TCC, unless
there are specific reasons to restrict such privileges. We believe this is a positive change and
should reduce the punitive nature of TCC. However, the issue of categorically subjecting
women who report sexual abuse to segregation as a result of their report can result in increasing
the trauma to victims of sexual abuse. Victims should be segregated only after Edna Mahan
conducts a review of all alternative housing placements and determines that no alternative is
available to keep the prisoner safe. Edna Mahan need not resort to segregation to keep women
who report sexual abuse safe.
Edna Mahan also fails to provide victims of sexual abuse with appropriate access to victim
services. The PREA standards require that Edna Mahan provide prisoners “with access to
outside victim advocates for emotional support services related to sexual abuse.” 28 C.F.R. §
115.53(a). Since the summer of 2018, NJDOC no longer provides on-campus counseling
services from an outside advocate for women housed at Edna Mahan who had suffered sexual
abuse. Instead, the private group that had provided such services offers a hotline to receive calls
from Edna Mahan. But the hotline has been severely underutilized, which suggests that women
are unaware of the hotline, have no confidence that the hotline will provide any meaningful
assistance, or fear that the calls may not be confidential. It is especially troubling given that at
the time the external advocate stopped providing counseling services on-site at Edna Mahan,
there was a waitlist of 45 women prisoners who had requested to meet with their trained victim
support counselor.
b. Edna Mahan Fails to Protect Victims Who Report Sexual Abuse from
Retaliation.
Edna Mahan does not have adequate policies and procedures for monitoring staff and
prisoners for retaliation. Indeed, the former Institutional PREA Compliance Manager for Edna
Mahan told us that neither NJDOC nor its facilities were required to have a protocol for
monitoring prisoners who reported sexual abuse for potential retaliation. He explained that
within 45-90 days of a prisoner making a sexual abuse allegation, he would interview the
prisoner to ask if she had experienced any retaliation. He would only speak to the prisoner once,
10

unless she specifically reported retaliation. The retaliation interview would occur where the
prisoner was housed, and there was no effort to provide the prisoner with a greater degree of
confidentiality. Retaliation monitoring was based solely on the prisoner’s responses and did not
include any proactive review of institutional files, disciplinary records, grievances, or other
documents to monitor for retaliation. It was recorded on a one-page Retaliation Monitoring
Form with a check box and a place for the prisoner’s signature. Once the prisoner signed the
form, Edna Mahan considered the monitoring “complete.” Moreover, the limited retaliation
monitoring the PREA Compliance Manager provided did not reach all of the prisoners who made
sexual abuse allegations because he did not have a complete list of which prisoners should be
monitored for retaliation.
Since our on-site review, NJDOC implemented an updated policy that requires the
facility PREA Compliance Coordinator to conduct at least two face-to-face meetings with
prisoners who allege sexual abuse, and two paper reviews during the 90 days following a
complaint. After 90 days, the Coordinator makes a formal finding as to whether monitoring is
complete, whether any retaliation was found, and whether monitoring should continue for
additional 30-day periods as needed. While these reforms are welcome, there is no evidence yet
to demonstrate that Edna Mahan has implemented these changes successfully.
In addition, the Principal SID Investigator stated that she recalled only one instance of
SID investigating a claim of retaliation, but noted that “the inmate was in the wrong.”
In October 2017, SID investigated an “allegation of harassment by staff of PREA
victim.” The victim had previously reported sexual abuse by a correction officer, who was
indicted in January 2017 on charges related to sexual abuse and was serving a prison sentence for
official misconduct at the time of the retaliation. A sergeant, the brother of the indicted officer,
ordered and/or supervised multiple shakedowns of the victim’s cell and housing unit within a
short period in October 2017. The victim reported this conduct to the state Ombudsman, but the
Ombudsman’s office did not forward her complaint to the facility Administrator. The victim
also reported the conduct to SID, which began an investigation only after Edna Mahan’s
administrator ordered it to do so. During the course of the investigation, the Edna Mahan
administrator ordered the retaliatory officer removed from Edna Mahan and he was reassigned to
another NJDOC facility. It is not clear from the available documents if the officer was
disciplined in any other manner for his retaliatory actions against his brother’s alleged sexual
abuse victim. Despite this incident, which clearly put NJDOC on notice of the real possibility of
retaliation, Edna Mahan did not develop and implement a protocol for retaliation monitoring.
Finally, most prisoners we questioned at Edna Mahan were not aware of their right to
report incidents of retaliation.4 This lack of knowledge about their right to be free from
retaliation for reporting has two consequences: (1) women prisoners feel they must tolerate acts
of retaliation for reporting; and (2) women prisoners do not report the original act of sexual
harassment or abuse.

The PREA standards require facilities to provide comprehensive education to prisoners “regarding their rights to
be free from sexual abuse and sexual harassment and to be free from retaliation for reporting such incidents.” 28
C.F.R. § 115.33(b).
4

11

2. Edna Mahan’s Inadequate System for Investigating Reports of Sexual Abuse
Subjects Prisoners to Substantial Risk of Harm.
a. Edna Mahan’s SID Investigations Are Inadequate.
At least four of the Edna Mahan staff members who have been criminally charged in
recent years for sexual abuse of prisoners were involved in SID investigations related to prisoner
sexual abuse years before the conduct that resulted in their indictments. SID conducted
insufficient investigations, closed investigations as unsubstantiated without applying the
appropriate standard of evidence, and failed to investigate some incidents at all.5 Often, SID
investigators focused narrowly on the specific allegation that was the impetus of an investigation,
and failed to investigate or follow up on troubling allegations of retaliation or other misconduct,
including sexual abuse, that arose during the course of the investigation. In each of these
instances, allegations of sexual abuse were not adequately investigated, and the staff members
later committed acts of sexual abuse. For example:
•

One officer, who worked at Edna Mahan for over a decade, was convicted in July
2018 of a 2016 sexual assault and criminal sexual contact with Edna Mahan prisoners
under his charge. As recently as 2016, he coerced women prisoners into having sex
with him by blackmail and threatening disciplinary action if they did not comply.
SID did a cursory investigation of him in 2013 for allegations that he exchanged
contraband for sex with prisoners, but the investigation was closed as unsubstantiated
and he was allowed to continue working on Edna Mahan’s maximum security
compound. This officer was also mentioned in the 2015 sexual abuse SID
investigation of another correction officer. In that instance, the investigation revealed
that the alleged victim noted that the officer had been flirting with her. There was no
indication that investigators pursued this allegation.
•

•

Another senior correction officer, who pled guilty to official misconduct in January
2019, after admitting to repeatedly having sexual intercourse with two prisoners as
recently as 2017, was also investigated in 2014 for allegedly having sex with another
Edna Mahan prisoner who later allegedly became pregnant. At that time, SID
investigators found “no evidence to support” the allegations, despite finding
information regarding an abortion pill in the alleged victim’s property.
The correction officer who, in February 2018, was arrested on 15 charges stemming
from his sexual abuse of three women prisoners at Edna Mahan as recently as 2017,
was identified in a SID investigation nearly three years earlier. In a late 2014 SID
investigation into sexual abuse by another correction officer, a prisoner victim
reported retaliation by this same, later-arrested officer. The later-arrested officer

5

If a correctional agency does not adequately investigate allegations of sexual abuse, it will be unable to determine
the factors that enable abuse to occur and the corrective actions necessary to address the problem. See Jacoby v.
PREA Coordinator, No. 5:17-cv-00053-MHH-TMP, 2017 WL 2962858, at *5 (N.D. Ala. April 4, 2017) (citing
Farmer, 511 U.S. at 833) (noting that failure to investigate can be a constitutional violation if the failure prevents
prison officials from protecting prisoners).

12

reportedly told the victim, “I will punch you in the face and fuck you up,” for having
made an allegation of sexual abuse against another officer.
•

In October 2016, a civilian vocational instructor in the Edna Mahan kitchen pled
guilty to official misconduct after being charged in connection with trading smuggled
cigarettes for sex with two Edna Mahan prisoners in 2016. In 2014, this vocational
instructor was suspected of trading tobacco for sex when SID investigated another
employee for the same pattern of misconduct. During the SID investigation of the
other staff member, an Edna Mahan prisoner reported that the vocational instructor
committed sexual abuse. It does not appear, however, that SID initiated a separate
investigation into the vocational instructor’s conduct.

These examples may have been missed opportunities to prevent abuse, due to a deficient system
for investigating complaints of sexual abuse.
Notably, the Edna Mahan SID investigators are not applying the proper standard of proof
in their sexual abuse administrative investigations and are not making sufficient findings and
recommendations. These failures result in the inability of Edna Mahan and NJDOC to
implement corrective action to prevent further sexual abuse. NJDOC policy and the PREA
standards mandate that Edna Mahan “impose no standard higher than a preponderance of the
evidence in determining whether allegations of sexual abuse or sexual harassment are
substantiated.” 28 C.F.R. § 115.72. “The goal of this standard is to ensure that the agency uses a
standard of proof that is fair to all parties and appropriate for administrative action,”6 as opposed
to the “beyond a reasonable doubt” standard that is appropriate in criminal court. When we
asked one of Edna Mahan’s SID senior investigators which standard of proof SID applied to
sexual abuse investigations, the investigator did not know the answer, despite having conducted
investigations at Edna Mahan for ten years.
Based on her review of administrative investigations at Edna Mahan, our expert
determined that SID investigators did not apply the preponderance standard. Instead, all but a
handful of the SID investigations we reviewed contained only vague findings of “evidence to
support” or “insufficient evidence to support.” A few investigations noted “no further
investigation at this time,” unless new evidence surfaces to reopen an investigation, and there
were some cases where there were no stated findings at all, but merely a note forwarding the
investigation to the administration for any action it deemed necessary. These vague findings do
not track the PREA standards or NJDOC policy regarding investigative determinations.7
But more importantly, the “conclusions” of Edna Mahan’s SID investigations are woefully
insufficient to provide direction to the facility administration to implement monitoring for
retaliation and corrective action to prevent future sexual abuse. Making distinct investigative
6

National Prison Rape Elimination Commission, National Standards Prevention, Detection, Response, and
Monitoring of Sexual Abuse in Adult Prisons and Jails, 45 (Jun. 23, 2009),
https://www.ncjrs.gov/pdffiles1/226680.pdf.
7
The PREA Standards define the proper administrative investigative findings as “substantiated” (an allegation that
was investigated and determined to have occurred); “unsubstantiated” (an allegation that was investigated, and the
investigation produced insufficient evidence to make a final determination as to whether or not the event occurred);
and “unfounded” (an allegation that was investigated and determined not to have occurred). 28 C.F.R. §115.5.

13

findings is very important, not only to the investigations themselves, but to the remedial actions
the findings may trigger to prevent future incidents of sexual abuse and sexual harassment in
confinement settings. These specific determinations drive requirements for notice to the victim
about the result of the investigation; notice to prospective employers if an allegation against a
staff member was substantiated or if he or she resigned during a pending investigation of sexual
abuse; consideration of both substantiated and unsubstantiated incidents in the facility staffing
plan; retaliation monitoring; and the sexual abuse incident review process. Edna Mahan’s
insufficient investigative findings also hinder the facility from taking steps to protect vulnerable
prisoners by providing information necessary for the administration to evaluate potential flaws in
the physical plant, staffing plan, monitoring, training, and staff actions so that the facility can
correct deficiencies to prevent future sexual abuse.
In some cases, investigators closed investigations by noting that there was “insufficient
evidence” or that “no further investigation” would be conducted where the evidence presented in
the report seemingly demonstrated at least a preponderance of evidence in support of the
allegation, or at least a need for further investigation. For example, a prisoner at Edna Mahan
reported that an officer was engaging in sexual activity with another prisoner. Separately, the
State Ombudsman received a report that the alleged victim had written letters to a male NJDOC
prisoner about a sexual relationship she was having with that officer. Based on these two
reports, SID conducted an investigation and found a letter in the male prisoner’s possession in
which the alleged victim at Edna Mahan described sexual acts with the officer and described his
penis. Despite this evidence, including evidence that corroborated information by the original
complainant, SID closed the investigation, stating that “[n]o further investigation into this matter
is necessary at this time. However, if new evidence of a sexual relationship between [the prisoner
and the officer] is discovered, the issue will be reopened.” The referenced Edna Mahan officer
had previously been the subject of at least two other investigations alleging sexual abuse of a
prisoner and inappropriate touching during a pat down search. Based on our expert’s review of
the SID file, this investigation should have been concluded with a “substantiated” finding, or at
least an “unsubstantiated” finding with corrective action recommended to ensure that the officer
in question did not have opportunities to sexually abuse Edna Mahan prisoners.
In addition to applying the wrong standard of proof, SID failed to investigate some
allegations of sexual abuse adequately and left other investigations incomplete. For instance, in
one matter where a prisoner alleged that her entire unit had witnessed a correction officer
threaten to rape her with a broomstick, SID interviewed the complainant and correction officers,
but failed to interview any of the alleged prisoner witnesses. Notably, in its report, SID
determined that it could not substantiate the complainant’s allegations because she did not
provide a specific date and time that the officer allegedly threatened to rape her, which is
something the alleged prisoner witnesses may have known. Similarly, in another investigation,
where a prisoner complained that a correction officer sexually penetrated her cell mate, SID
interviewed the complainant, the alleged victim, and certain correction officers, but failed to seek
out or interview any other potential prisoner witnesses. Moreover, although the complainant also
alleged another officer threatened to hurt her after she lodged the sexual assault complaint, SID
failed to seek out or interview any potential witnesses to the alleged threat and instead only
interviewed the complainant and the officer, who denied making the threat. Three years after
SID closed the investigation, the Hunterdon County Prosecutor’s Office indicted the officer who
14

had been accused of violently threatening the complainant on charges of sexually abusing
multiple Edna Mahan prisoners as recently as 2017.
SID also delayed in conducting timely investigations after becoming aware of allegations
of sexual assault and sexual harassment. In one instance, where a prisoner reported that an
officer had inappropriately viewed her in the shower, SID did not interview the officer for almost
two months. In another instance, SID did not initiate an investigation into alleged prisoner
sexual abuse by a staff member until after a prisoner witness made multiple complaints through
various channels, including speaking with two Edna Mahan administrators and instructing her
mother to contact the Ombudsman. While SID finally initiated an investigation into this
complaint, it never reached any conclusions.
Even with recent additional focus and attention on the issue of staff sexual abuse at Edna
Mahan, SID investigations of allegations from late 2018 and early 2019 contain similar flaws.
For example, in a late 2018 investigation of allegations that a correction officer repeatedly
sexually abused an Edna Mahan prisoner, SID failed to interview the victim and closed the
investigation as “unsubstantiated for reporting reasons”—essentially applying the criminal
standard of proof to an incomplete administrative investigation. In a separate 2019 investigation,
multiple prisoners reported sexual abuse or sexual harassment by a civilian staff member. SID
identified other potential misconduct by the staff member, which resulted in the staff member’s
removal from Edna Mahan, but made no conclusions regarding the allegations of sexual abuse
and harassment.
Compared to national averages, NJDOC has a low rate of substantiating allegations of
sexual victimization of prisoners. Combined with the other deficiencies identified, this is further
indicative of an ineffective response to incidents of sex abuse. In 2017, NJDOC substantiated
only 7 out of 145 allegations of sexual abuse or harassment of NJDOC prisoners statewide, or
4.8%. Approximately 8% of sexual victimization allegations from prisons and jails nationwide
are substantiated based on completed investigations, according to the most recent national
statistics available. Out of 38 allegations of staff-on-prisoner sexual abuse statewide in 2017,
NJDOC substantiated only 2 reports, or 5%, which is closer to the national rate of 6%. However,
although the number of sexual abuse complaints by NJDOC prisoners has increased significantly
in recent years, and went up from 97 in 2016 to 145 in 2017, the number of substantiated
incidents has not increased. The increase in complaints of sexual abuse is especially significant
in light of the common concerns prisoners voice about reluctance to report due to the perception
that they are subjected to retaliation in response for reporting. It is likely that sexual abuse is still
underreported at Edna Mahan. In the context of our conclusions about deficient investigations of
sex abuse at Edna Mahan, the system’s comparatively low rate of substantiated complaints may
be a result of flaws in the investigative process.
b. SID Investigators Lack the Independence Necessary to Conduct Unbiased
Investigations.
NJDOC fails to ensure autonomy and a lack of bias within Edna Mahan’s SID office.
We observed close, friendly, and personal interactions between SID administrators and current
Edna Mahan correction officers during our on-site review. While SID staff should have a civil
15

and positive relationship with staff at the prison, it is important to maintain boundaries and a
bias-free process for evaluating potential staff misconduct. None of the SID staff we interviewed
thought it was necessary to recuse themselves from any investigations involving correction
officers they knew well and had personal relationships with. Indeed, SID’s Deputy Chief
emphasized that professional ethics required recusal only for “relationships, not friendships.”
Hence, so long as an SID investigator has no familial relationship or romantic involvement, the
investigator can conduct an investigation of a close friend and former co-worker at Edna Mahan.
Where SID investigators fail to disclose personal relationships with the subjects of SID
investigations, the potential for bias can result in a compromised investigation. For example,
when a senior custody officer at Edna Mahan was being investigated for potential misconduct
involving a relationship with, and marriage to, a former prisoner, a SID investigator did not
disclose that he had been a guest at the senior officer’s home and met his wife, whom he knew
had been a prisoner at Edna Mahan while the senior officer worked there.
NJDOC instituted a new policy in October 2017 (modified in April 2018), which requires
SID investigators to report personal relationships with other NJDOC staff if a reasonable person
could perceive the relationship as affecting the investigator’s impartiality or the integrity of an
investigation. The SID Deputy Chief then determines whether the investigator will be recused
from an investigation. The policy requires only this limited initial reporting and review by the
SID Deputy Chief, but does not require recusal, and does not include consequences for violating
the policy. The revisions to the policy leave much to the SID’s discretion. . If Edna Mahan
investigators continue to investigate staff with whom they have personal relationships, Edna
Mahan investigations are likely to continue to be tainted.
c. SID Investigators Do Not Have Sufficient Training to Investigate
Allegations of Sexual Abuse.
“Proper training is essential to combating sexual abuse in correctional facilities.”8 Sexual
abuse investigations require a specific skill set, which necessitates specialized training on
interviewing victims of sexual abuse, collection of evidence, and the standard of evidence
required to substantiate an administrative investigation.9. Edna Mahan’s SID investigators
receive a basic training course for investigating at the NJDOC training academy, but we received
conflicting reports on whether all SID investigators receive training specific to investigating
allegations of sexual abuse in a correctional setting. Indeed, the former head of Edna Mahan’s
SID office confirmed that he had not received specialized training for investigating sexual abuse
allegations, noting “SID conducts all investigations, not just PREA investigations.” He had
participated in providing some training to Edna Mahan staff through videotaped skits on undue
familiarity in February 2017, following the staff indictments for sexual abuse of prisoners. None
of Edna Mahan’s SID staff had received training on techniques on interviewing women prisoners
8

National Standards to Prevent, Detect, and Respond to Prison Rape, 77 Fed. Reg. 37106, at 37109 (June 20, 2012)
(explanatory text).
9
The PREA standards require that investigators receive specialized training in sexual abuse investigations, including
“techniques for interviewing sexual abuse victims, proper use of Miranda and Garrity warnings, sexual abuse
evidence collection in confinement settings, and the criteria and evidence required to substantiate a case for
administrative action or prosecution referral.” 28 C.F.R. §§ 115.34 & 115.71(b)

16

who may be victims of sexual abuse. Recent “Sexual Assault Investigations” training provided
to Edna Mahan staff focuses on the officer’s initial response to sexual abuse allegations, is not
specific to corrections, and includes a caveat that the training module is not intended to train
officers as sexual assault investigators.
Lack of specific training on correctional sexual abuse of women is not only a problem
with SID staff. The former Institutional PREA Compliance Manager for Edna Mahan was
“instructed” by the NJDOC Commissioner to fill the duties of that position at Edna Mahan
despite the fact that he had no experience or formal training on working with female prisoners.
The only training for the State’s PREA Compliance Managers is achieved informally through
quarterly meetings of all the NJDOC Institutional PREA Compliance Managers.
3. Lack of Confidential Reporting Mechanisms Discourage Edna Mahan Prisoners
from Reporting Sexual Abuse.
Lack of a reliable, confidential means of reporting sexual abuse deters women prisoners
from reporting sexual abuse at Edna Mahan.
At the time of our on-site review, SID reported receiving information about allegations of
sexual abuse at Edna Mahan in multiple ways. Prisoners can report allegations of sexual abuse
directly to Edna Mahan staff, who forward the complaints to their supervisors, who then forward
the complaints to the facility administrator, through the chain of command. Edna Mahan
prisoners may also contact SID directly to report sexual abuse or sexual harassment. The former
Principal Investigator at Edna Mahan had a designated SID cell phone that enabled prisoners to
contact him directly. Although he had been promoted to a new position outside of Edna Mahan
at the time of our on-site review, he still had the phone in his possession and said he forwarded
relevant messages to the current Principal Investigator.
In early summer 2018, Edna Mahan initiated a new SID hotline. Although the hotline
had been in use for approximately a month at the time of our on-site view, and had yielded three
calls, the number was not posted in the Edna Mahan housing units or common areas. We were
informed that the original flyers posting the number had been removed because another number
listed on the same notice was not functional. SID staff were unaware that the notices had been
taken down. The toll-free SID hotline is referred to by staff as the “Snitch Line,” and that is how
it is displayed on the facility’s caller identification system, which demonstrates a seeming lack of
respect for the callers and their allegations. It is both problematic and emblematic of the
problems with the reporting systems at Edna Mahan.
Many of the Edna Mahan prisoners we spoke to said they would not use the SID hotline
because their calls would be recorded and they would then face retaliation by staff for reporting
incidents of alleged sexual harassment or abuse. When we advised the prisoners that hotline
calls are not recorded, they referred us to a sign by each phone which stated: “ATTENTION!!!
All inmate phone calls shall be subject to recording and monitoring/listening. Legal and
ombudsman calls are not monitored/recorded.” When we raised this concern with the Edna
Mahan administration, we were told that prisoners “should know” that calls to the hotline would
be treated the same as a legal call. But the confusion is Edna Mahan’s responsibility to fix.
17

Edna Mahan prisoners also can report sexual abuse and sexual harassment, and
communicate with SID, through the JPay system. JPay is an electronic system used by NJDOC
and other correctional agencies to handle grievances, electronic communications, commissary
and other prisoner funds, and additional capabilities through on-unit kiosks or tablets paid for by
prisoners or their families. At Edna Mahan, JPay is not a reliably confidential method to report
allegations of sexual abuse. An NJDOC official acknowledged that the placement of the JPay
terminals within the Edna Mahan housing units, near prisoner telephones and where prisoners
congregate, made it difficult to communicate confidentially on JPay. In addition, SID staff
revealed that although JPay is intended to be confidential, administrative staff are able to review
the JPay grievances and share information with others. Edna Mahan prisoners expressed
concerns about custody staff screening their JPay grievances and the resultant opportunity for
retaliation. SID staff reported instances in which supposedly confidential information would
“get back to the grounds,” indicating a breach in privacy. Although Edna Mahan has used JPay
for two years, Edna Mahan has not resolved this confidentiality issue.
Separately, when SID receives a notice of a sexual assault-related complaint, through
JPay or otherwise, SID’s standard practice is to inform the shift commander lieutenant that the
prisoner wanted to speak with SID. SID investigators leave it to the discretion of the lieutenant
as to how to handle it from there. Staff acknowledged that some lieutenants failed to keep
prisoners’ referral to SID for an interview confidential, which is a concern to prisoners. The
former Edna Mahan Principal Investigator reported that he would arrange for confidential
interviews with women who reported or witnessed sexual abuse by scheduling the prisoners for
pretextual medical treatment or administrative appointments to enable prisoners to meet with
SID without the knowledge of other staff or prisoners. This apparently effective practice was
discontinued when the new SID Principal Investigator took over in June 2018.
In addition, Edna Mahan prisoners with limited English proficiency (LEP) reported that
they had no way to report sexual abuse or other issues without seeking assistance from other
prisoners, which compromised confidentiality. Spanish-speaking prisoners at Edna Mahan
reported that they could not submit grievances without the assistance of English-speaking
prisoners who attempted to help by writing grievances or other complaints in English because
prison staff would not respond to requests written in Spanish. When SID attempted to interview
a Spanish-speaking LEP prisoner about a complaint about an officer who was harassing her, the
investigator did not understand Spanish or offer an interpreter, so they had to try to communicate
in English. During our on-site review, an Edna Mahan correction officer opined that the
Spanish-speaking prisoners “don’t really need help” because he believed they all could speak
English and were only pretending not to in order to seek special treatment. 10

10

Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (Title VI) prohibits NJDOC from discriminating against prisoners on the
basis of race, color, and national origin (see 42 U.S.C. § 2000d-1; 28 C.F.R. § 42.104(a)-(b)), which can include
failure to provide meaningful language access to LEP individuals. 42 U.S.C. §§ 2000d to 2000d-7; 28 C.F.R. §§
42.101-112, 42.401-415. Edna Mahan has a legal obligation to treat LEP prisoners in a non-discriminatory manner
and duty to ensure meaningful access to prison programs and services, including the reporting and investigative
services. Guidance to Federal Financial Assistance Recipients Regarding Title VI Prohibition Against National
Origin Discrimination Affecting Limited English Proficient Persons, 67 Fed. Reg. 41,455 (June 18, 2002).

18

Edna Mahan prisoners also have the option of contacting the Office of Corrections
Ombudsman, which is independent from the NJDOC. Per policy, the Ombudsman should then
forward the report to the NJDOC SID Central Office or the facility administrator, which should
trigger communication with the SID office at Edna Mahan for investigation. Nine percent of the
sexual abuse and sexual harassment SID investigations we reviewed were reported through the
Ombudsman; over half of which included reports of retaliation. Although prisoners reportedly
have the option to remain anonymous when reporting to the Ombudsman, the reports we
reviewed clearly identified the reporters of sexual abuse, without any mention of anonymity or
confidentiality.
4. Edna Mahan’s Policies and Practices Enable Sexual Assault of Prisoners by Staff
by Failing to Ensure a Reasonably Safe Environment.
a. Failure to Secure and Monitor the Physical Plant of Edna Mahan Enables
Staff Sexual Abuse of Prisoners.
The physical plant of Edna Mahan poses challenges for adequate supervision and
provides opportunities for sexual abuse to occur unseen. In an effort to avoid detection, Edna
Mahan staff purposely exploited weaknesses in Edna Mahan’s physical structure and security
practices to abuse prisoners.
Prior to 2018, there were limited cameras on the grounds of Edna Mahan, and in many
instances, staff brought prisoners to unmonitored areas—often in camera “blind spots”—to
sexually assault prisoners. NJDOC began installing additional cameras at Edna Mahan in late
2016, but camera coverage was severely lacking during our 2018 on-site review, and remains
deficient. For example, there were no exterior cameras on the compound during our on-site
review, apart from one that pointed at the entrance to the maximum security compound. There
were cameras in some housing unit hallways and entryways, but not inside the common space of
most housing units. While NJDOC was in the process of installing more cameras at Edna
Mahan, the cameras were described as basic commercial models with limited capabilities and
utility to investigators.
NJDOC has plans for a complete update with comprehensive camera coverage and expert
architectural guidance on placement. As of April 2019, NJDOC was still finalizing the design
for this project and did not provide a completion date for the planned three-phase installation of
new camera system. According to recent reports, some housing units are still without cameras.
In addition, there is no plan to have a staff member monitor the cameras at all times and no plans
to increase the number of staff. While cameras can augment prisoner supervision, they are not a
substitute for adequate staffing. Hence, while the addition of sufficient cameras could aid Edna
Mahan in the investigation of complaints of sexual abuse, they will not provide sufficient
supervision of staff and prisoners at Edna Mahan.
Upgraded camera coverage cannot compensate for lack of foundational correctional
security practices, for example, controlling contraband. Edna Mahan does not effectively control
contraband, which fuels the risk that officers will use access to and reporting of contraband as a
means of control and to harass and abuse prisoners. Proper correctional security policies require
19

entry to a facility through a secure checkpoint, with adequate contraband searches for staff and
visitors, and appropriate protocols followed consistently for all who enter. The security lapses at
Edna Mahan allow staff to bring contraband into the facility, which contributes to a coercive
environment and gives rise to other misconduct. On certain shifts, Edna Mahan staff are
required to call Central Control via radio to operate the gates into the maximum security
compound. Edna Mahan staff confirmed that, because there were no cameras at some entrances,
it is likely that Central Control opens the gates without seeing who is present. Edna Mahan
officials confirmed that staff could drive onto the compound grounds without going through a
security checkpoint. Multiple Edna Mahan staff noted that there are not security checkpoints at
all entrances to Edna Mahan and the compound is not secure.
Although we were on site a year and a half after multiple Edna Mahan correction officers
had been indicted, and who later pleaded or were found guilty, for sexual abuse, we observed
lapses in supervision and physical plant deficiencies that presented continued opportunities for
undetected sexual abuse and other harmful misconduct. Multiple Edna Mahan staff members
opined that the facility still offered numerous blind spots from cameras and supervision sight
lines. Our on-site inspection confirmed this. Unsupervised spaces on the Edna Mahan
compound pose another clear threat to prisoner safety and present opportunities for undetected
sexual abuse. We observed dilapidated and apparently unused buildings throughout the
compound and were informed that they were padlocked and that “very few” people had access.
Staff did not know who had the keys or access to some buildings. Women prisoners on the
minimum security compound walk by abandoned buildings without security escorts or exterior
camera coverage. On the maximum security compound, prisoners worked in a cavernous
warehouse-type room that was filled with old, unused equipment, supplies, and furniture. The
prisoners’ current work required only a few tables in the middle of the room, but the remaining
space and contents of the room provided numerous blind spots. These abandoned structures and
unused spaces on the Edna Mahan compound pose a threat to prisoner safety and present
opportunities for sexual abuse.
After our on-site review, NJDOC reported that Edna Mahan had employed a strict
locking and tracking system to ensure that access to basements, attics, and other unoccupied
areas is restricted and tracked through Center Control. This is positive, but it remains unclear if
all of the unoccupied, abandoned, or unused buildings and structures on the Edna Mahan
compound are adequately controlled. NJDOC is also in the process of implementing a
centralized parking plan for Edna Mahan and evaluating other potential changes to require
centralized checkpoints, which should increase physical plant security.
b. Staff Deployment Puts Edna Mahan Prisoners at Substantial Risk of
Harm.
Edna Mahan’s failure to ensure adequate supervision of women prisoners exposes them
to the substantial risk of harm from sexual abuse. Staff are insufficiently deployed in housing
units to prevent sexual abuse from occurring. Edna Mahan must better deploy staff to observe
and secure areas where abuse could occur, and must create more gender specific posts to protect
the privacy of female inmates.

20

Edna Mahan’s Administrator confirmed that there is a minimum of one correction officer
per unit, and that most posts are not gender restricted. Male staff hold single-staff work posts
and shifts in Edna Mahan housing units. While this staffing level is not unacceptable per se,
given the physical plant challenges of Edna Mahan’s facilities and the history of staff sexual
abuse of prisoners, our experts concluded Edna Mahan’s staff deployment is not sufficient to
keep prisoners safe.
For example, on the minimum security compound, a single male officer supervised 42
women in two wings of single cells with a small, outside yard without camera coverage. In
another building, one male officer supervised 50 women in a building with two floors, an attic
and a basement, and spotty camera coverage. This lay out and staffing pattern was duplicated in
other Edna Mahan housing units. The sole officer responsible for supervising 50 prisoners
throughout a housing unit noted that there were no cameras in stairwells, some cameras were
broken, and he could not observe the cameras when he was doing rounds. We observed obvious
blind spots in the building. A storage room, which had no camera coverage, had a mattress on
the floor.
Prisoner movement on the minimum-security compound is based on “call outs,” where
women are told to report to different locations throughout the compound and officers are to be
posted along the routes to monitor their movement. However, we did not observe any officers
posted along routes as we traversed between buildings. Indeed, we noted few to no correction
officers on the grounds.
Maximum security housing units were staffed with two correction officers: one at a
stationary position in a control area called “the cage,” and one as a floor walker. There were
cameras in the entrance ways of some housing units, but no cameras into the wings themselves.
In some of the substantiated incidents of sexual abuse at Edna Mahan, one of the officers would
take a prisoner behind the cage to commit sexual abuse while the other officer acted as lookout.
However, the staffing pattern and physical layout remained unchanged during our July 2018 onsite review, with the only change being that an officer in Central Control now can see the
housing unit hallways via camera. The maximum security kitchen, which includes a dining area,
pots room, freezer and refrigerator area, storage area, cooking area, and prisoner restrooms, but
little camera coverage, was staffed by one male officer.
In addition to the risk of sexual abuse, under the Fourth Amendment, a prisoner has the
right “to shield . . . [her] unclothed figure from [the] view of strangers, and particularly strangers
of the opposite sex.” Byrd v. Maricopa Cnty Sheriff’s Dep’t, 629 F.3d 1135, 1141-43 (9th Cir.
2011) (quoting York v. Story, 324 F.2d 450, 455 (9th Cir. 1963)) (holding that a woman cadet
touching a male pretrial detainee’s genitals and buttocks during a pat down while the detainee
was only wearing boxer shorts violated his right to privacy); see also, e.g., Kent v. Johnson, 821
F.2d 1220, 1226 (6th Cir. 1987) (noting that “there must be a fundamental constitutional right to
be free from forced exposure of one’s person to strangers of the opposite sex”). While oppositesex surveillance of women prisoners is not unconstitutional per se, such surveillance must further
the goal of prison security. See Devenshire v. Schouppe, No. 2:15-CV-01197, 2016 WL
6988718, at *2 (W.D. Pa. Nov. 29, 2016) (citing Timm v. Gunter, 917 F.2d 1093, 1102 (8th Cir.
2002) cert. denied, (emphasizing that practices that arguably violated prisoners’ privacy
21

outweighed by legitimate institutional concerns). In recognition of prisoners’ right to maintain
some level of privacy, the PREA standards limit cross-gender viewing of prisoners in shower
and bathroom areas to exigent circumstances or when viewing is incidental to routine cell
checks. See 28 C.F.R. § 115.15(d).
NJDOC documents confirm that, at least as of early 2018, many housing units on the
minimum and maximum Edna Mahan compounds were staffed exclusively by male staff on
multiple shifts, in some cases seven days of the week. Privacy violations that result in the
unnecessary exposure of women prisoners’ bodies to male staff contribute to a sexualized
environment conducive to sexual abuse and harassment of prisoners. Ensuring that women
prisoners can shower, undress, and toilet without observation by male staff would be difficult
with Edna Mahan’s current staffing plan.
Edna Mahan does have some gender-restricted posts that must be filled by female staff.
For example, in Cottage C, Edna Mahan’s Special Needs housing unit, where prisoners with the
most intensive mental health needs are housed, policy requires that certain shifts and posts be
filled by female staff. Edna Mahan staff reported during our on-site review that even when
female staff are assigned to the gender-restricted posts that involve constant observation of
women prisoners in their cells, there are not enough female staff to relieve them when they go on
breaks. Therefore, male officers fill in for female officers during breaks, which violates the
gender-restricted post requirements and results in male officers conducting constant observation
of women prisoners who may need to undress or use the toilet. Indeed, we witnessed male
officers conducting constant observation and filling in for other supposedly gender-restricted
posts during our on-site review.
In an April 2018 request that acknowledged Edna Mahan’s “crucial need” for additional
gender-restricted posts, Edna Mahan’s Administrator noted that Edna Mahan has “many
challenges to safety, security and key PREA issues regarding the prevention of staff sexual
misconduct and the prevention of prison rape on a daily basis. These challenges are primarily
due to the lack of female staff.” Edna Mahan’s administrator requested additional genderrestricted posts to ensure adequate supervision, including constant watch; yard movements;
contraband detection; pat downs; and strip searches. NJDOC reported in March 2019 that they
have designated more gender-restricted posts for Edna Mahan, but fewer posts than were
recommended or are necessary.11
A.

Officials at Edna Mahan Knew of the Risk to Prisoners from Staff Sexual Abuse
and Disregarded It.

Officials at NJDOC and Edna Mahan have been on notice of incidents of staff sexual
abuse of prisoners for years and have failed to adequately address the deficiencies that enabled
the abuse to occur. By disregarding the obvious risks to prisoner safety, officials at Edna Mahan
evinced a deliberate indifference to prisoners’ constitutional rights. Farmer, 511 U.S. at 842.

11

Any gender-restricted posts must be evaluated through a process to determine compliance with Title VII of the
Civil Rights Act of 1964, as amended, 42 U.S.C. §§ 2000e, et seq., and ensure the requirements are met for a bonafide occupational qualification.

22

While the criminal indictments of eight Edna Mahan staff between May 2016 and April
2019 focused attention on sexual abuse at Edna Mahan, the problems have existed for many
years. In the 1990s and 2000s, at least eight other correction officers and other Edna Mahan staff
members were charged with crimes relating to sexual abuse. In April 2002, NJDOC’s
Commissioner sent a letter to “remind all staff” not to permit themselves “to become overfamiliar” with prisoners, including by engaging in “sexual behavior” with prisoners. The letter
further notes that “in the [NJDOC], there have been far too many instances of such misconduct.”
In 2005, the Third Circuit found that NJDOC was not deliberately indifferent to sex abuse
because it lacked notice of such incidents. Heggenmiller v. Edna Mahan Corr. Inst. for
Women, 128 F. App’x 240, 248 (3d Cir. 2005). After this opinion’s detailed recounting of such
incidents, NJDOC was certainly on notice of unacceptable incidents of sex abuse in its facilities.
In 2010 and 2011, three correction officers were fired after several women prisoners alleged
sexual abuse dating back to 2008. At least 16 women claimed they were beaten or sexually
abused by one correction officer between 2008 and 2010. Seven of them have formally accused
the officer of physical and sexual abuse in two lawsuits filed in state and federal court. While
this officer maintained his innocence and was never criminally charged, he recently agreed to a
$75,000 consent judgment to settle a lawsuit by six former prisoners. Another prisoner was
pursuing a lawsuit against three correction officers related to sexual abuse, and the case settled in
2018.
Current and former prisoners at Edna Mahan described sexual abuse of prisoners by
correction officers as “an open secret.” There is no indication that NJDOC took reasonable
responses to prevent correction officers and staff from continuing to sexually abuse prisoners at
Edna Mahan.
1. Edna Mahan’s Administration Failed to Review Pertinent Information Concerning
Incidents of Sexual Abuse and Sexual Harassment
Despite documentation of a long-standing problem with sexual abuse at Edna Mahan, the
administration failed to take sufficient remedial measures. We found no evidence to demonstrate
a reasonable response to sexual abuse incident review process at Edna Mahan, which is essential
to identifying contributing factors to sexual abuse and recommending any changes to policy or
practice to help prevent such incidents of abuse in the future.12 While SID collected some
information concerning alleged incidents of sexual abuse, critical details of several of those
incidents have not been shared with facility leadership. Moreover, Edna Mahan’s administration
has not set up a team to review with its leadership alleged incidents of sexual abuse and any
needed corrective action. To the contrary, Edna Mahan has set up a system that deprives the
administration of the details of incidents of sexual abuse and sexual harassment, which allows
systemic deficiencies to persist despite repeated reports of abuse. The former Institutional PREA
Compliance Manager for Edna Mahan stated that Edna Mahan will notify SID of any allegations
of sexual abuse or sexual harassment, “no matter how minute.” SID conducts the investigation
and sends an e-mail with their findings to the facility PREA Compliance Manager. However, the
PREA Compliance Manager does not receive SID’s report or do any review of the investigative
file. Indeed, the PREA Compliance Manager could only assume that SID maintains a file on the
12

The PREA standards require a sexual abuse incident review at the facility level at the conclusion of every sexual
abuse investigation. 28 CFR § 115.86(a).

23

findings because he has never seen one. Edna Mahan’s top official, the facility’s Administrator,
also does not have access to SID investigative reports or case files. The SID investigation
reports state that SID “will forward findings to the Administrator for appropriate action,” but the
Administrator is not provided details of the investigations in order to fashion appropriate
corrective action.
NJDOC has a PREA Committee at the NJDOC agency level that meets monthly to
review PREA investigation reports from all NJDOC facilities and make recommendations for
facilities. Edna Mahan does not have such a committee or meetings at the facility level. The
NJDOC PREA review may have limited impact for individual facilities. When we asked
NJDOC officials what types of recommendations the PREA Committee might make in response
to PREA investigation reports, the only response we received was “camera placement,” twice,
which is inadequate.
Edna Mahan’s Administrator should be made aware – but is not – of the details regarding
sexual abuse or other investigations within the prison she manages. With more information, the
Administrator can act in real time to separate alleged perpetrators from victims, respond to
physical plant issues that create opportunities for sexual abuse, and make other administrative
changes to protect prisoners from the serious harm of sexual abuse. Edna Mahan should have a
sexual abuse review team, consisting of facility leadership, conduct timely reviews (generally,
within 30 days of the investigative finding), so that Edna Mahan can react swiftly to identify and
implement corrective action to prevent future incidents of sexual abuse in similar places and/or
manners.
The recent indictments, pleas, criminal convictions, and terminations of correction
officers for sexual abuse of Edna Mahan prisoners are but one tool to combat wrongdoing by
officers. Administrative investigations of staff for allegations related to sexual abuse where the
local authorities declined to prosecute are another important tool. While an administrative
hearing process exists to determine if discipline, including termination, is appropriate in NJDOC
cases in which misconduct is indicated even though criminal charges did not accrue, there have
been no such administrative hearings for Edna Mahan, except for the criminal cases in which
NJDOC sought termination of employment.
2. NJDOC and Edna Mahan Failed to Remedy Systemic Deficiencies that Enable
Sexual Abuse of Prisoners to Persist
NJDOC acknowledged during our on-site review that before the January 2017
indictments, a “culture” existed at Edna Mahan that permitted sexual abuse, but assured us that
the State has been putting changes in place to increase accountability and address the problem.
For example, after four Edna Mahan correction officers were indicted in January 2017, the State
requested technical assistance from the Department of Justice’s National Institute of Corrections
(NIC). An NIC expert team visited Edna Mahan and provided NJDOC with a report and
recommendations in January 2018. NJDOC also engaged a private consultant in September
2017, to conduct a review at Edna Mahan and provide advice as to recommended responsive
measures. Although the consultant made a number of recommendations related to Edna Mahan,
NJDOC has not shared his work with the Department.
24

In May 2018, NJDOC created a Safety and Accountability for Edna (SAFE) task force to
address many of the NIC Technical Assistance recommendations and other potential corrective
action measures. NJDOC’s Chief of Staff heads the SAFE task force and members include highlevel NJDOC officials, but no representatives from Edna Mahan’s administration or staff. The
SAFE task force set a list of goals related to NIC’s recommendations, and outlined plans to
address them.
As a result of these proactive steps, NJDOC has initiated some positive remedial
measures at Edna Mahan. Unfortunately, many of the initiatives are incomplete or lack
acceptance at the facility level. For example, NJDOC has commissioned a comprehensive
camera coverage upgrade that will result in 654 cameras throughout the Edna Mahan compound,
double the current data retention period, include motion activation in generally unoccupied areas,
and other improvements to the system. However, it is unclear when the project will be complete
and, during our on-site review, it was reported that no one was assigned to conduct continuous
monitoring of the cameras. Staffing numbers at Edna Mahan were not expected to increase with
the installation of additional cameras, which minimizes the usefulness of cameras for direct
surveillance. While NJDOC implemented a new policy in June 2018, which requires audits of
surveillance video by facility supervisors, during our on-site visit, it was reported that Edna
Mahan supervisors were resistant to reviewing camera footage. Lieutenants and other high-level
officers indicated a reluctance to review footage for evidence of staff misconduct, which they
would then be required to report to the Administrator for corrective action. We were not
informed of any adverse consequences for lieutenants and higher-level staff refusing to review
camera footage.
In addition, NJDOC has sought and successfully implemented an expansion of genderrestricted posts, including at all minimum-security housing posts at Mahan. This required the
reassignment of 17 male correction officers at Edna Mahan. But this is fewer gender-restricted
post than the changes NJDOC proposed during our on-site review, which would have affected 39
male correction officers. In addition, it has been reported that while the number of genderrestricted posts has increased, Edna Mahan does not have enough female correction officers to
adequately staff the posts. As such, female officers cannot be relieved for timely meal breaks
and are being subjected to mandatory overtime.
Other recommendations have been disregarded. There is no indication that NJDOC has
remedied the lack of a written policy addressing gender differences between male and female
prisoners. In this way, NJDOC continues to minimize women prisoners’ experience, for
example, the significant trauma history of many women prisoners, which contributes to the
failure to protect them from harm. As discussed above, NJDOC reforms fall short of requiring
recusal of SID investigators who have personal relationships with the staff they are investigating.
Edna Mahan made policy changes that lessen the punitive nature of TCC, but continues to
subject victims of sexual abuse to segregation as a result of their report. The SAFE task force
considered a change to Edna Mahan policy that would have prohibited officers from taking
prisoners out of their cells during count times, without supervisor approval, or requiring
deployment of supervisors to conduct rounds during count time. These changes were
contemplated, and recommended by NIC, because of sexual abuse that occurred during count,
25

when an officer could isolate himself with a prisoner while everyone else on the unit was locked
down. However, the task force decided not to pursue these changes on the recommendation of
Edna Mahan custody staff, who balked at the idea of getting permission from the shift lieutenant
before removing a woman from her cell during count because it could “possibly delay” meal
time. Without any additional evidence or explanation of how meal delay might outweigh sexual
safety, the SAFE task force gave up on this proposal. The task force also decided not to pursue
changes that would have limited the duration of correction officer assignments through use of
more temporary job bids or generalized job bids, which would enable NJDOC to move staff
around within the facility or system. Changes of these types would help to minimize the
development of unprofessional relationships between staff and prisoners, which can lead to
opportunities for staff sexual abuse.
While NJDOC’s positive efforts and willingness to make changes at Edna Mahan are
commendable, our investigation has revealed that many of the practices and attitudes that
enabled the abuse to occur persist at Edna Mahan. In addition, Edna Mahan prisoners continue
to raise credible allegations of staff sexual abuse and sexual harassment, despite the reforms.
The proposed and completed changes are unlikely to resolve problems of sexual abuse if facility
staff and administrators are not involved in developing and implementing corrective action
within Edna Mahan.
During our on-site review, some Edna Mahan administrators and staff opined that the
culture had not changed and that a code of silence persisted to discourage reporting sexual abuse.
One officer investigated by SID was engaging in sexual harassment while another officer’s
criminal trial for sexual abuse was ongoing. Some officers were candid in disparaging the recent
focus on sexual abuse, based on the view that prisoners abuse the system, and supervisory staff
reinforced, rather than correct, this perception that sexual assault received undue focus.
In our review of SID investigation files for allegations of sexual abuse or sexual
harassment, we found that, despite being aware of both ongoing instances of sexual abuse and
sexual harassment and the means to report, correction officers did not report sexual abuse or
sexual harassment being committed by other custody staff, even anonymously. This implies
either that correction officers do not trust Edna Mahan’s investigative systems; that a “code of
silence” exists where Edna Mahan officers are unwilling to speak out against other officers; or
that some officers are involved in actively concealing misconduct. An important component to
eradicating sexual abuse in correctional settings is staff participation in identifying abusive
conditions and their responses to these conditions. This is why the PREA standards require that
staff members are trained on preventing, detecting, reporting, and responding to sexual abuse and
that staff have a duty to report “any knowledge, suspicion, or information” regarding sexual
abuse or sexual harassment of prisoners. 28 C.F.R. §§ 115.31, 115.61. Edna Mahan officials
opined that to the extent the culture has changed, it is only because officers are now afraid of
being caught. The candid statements that Edna Mahan staff offered to the Department
demonstrate that, while NJDOC and Edna Mahan may be working to reform their system, a
deeper cultural change is necessary.

26

Edna Mahan suffers from a “culture of acceptance” of sexual abuse, which has enabled
abuse to persist despite years of notice and efforts towards change at the State level.13 As noted
above, at the conclusion of a full criminal trial of an Edna Mahan correction officer, the state
court observed that this “pervasive culture” gives staff the opportunity and audacity to abuse
their authority by “preying on vulnerable women . . . for sexual gratification.”14 Both NJDOC
and Edna Mahan have been reactionary to the multiple criminal indictments, civil lawsuits, and
press garnered around prior staff sexual abuse of Edna Mahan prisoners. If NJDOC and Edna
Mahan do not effectively address the systemic deficiencies that led to the criminal sexual abuse
revealed by the staff indictments, practices will continue at Edna Mahan that will likely result in
continued sexual abuse of the women incarcerated there.
V.

MINIMAL REMEDIAL MEASURES

As the efforts by NJDOC to address the issues outlined in this Notice have been thus far
inadequate to protect women from sexual abuse at Edna Mahan, the following remedial measures
are necessary.
•

Comply with PREA and its implementing regulations, the National Standards to Prevent,
Detect, and Respond to Prison Rape (28 C.F.R. §§ 115 et seq.).

•

Cease the practice of automatically transferring prisoners who report sexual abuse to
TCC or other segregated housing unless an Edna Mahan official has completed and
documented an assessment of all available alternatives, and has determined that there is
no available alternative means of separating the victim from likely abusers.

•

If it is necessary to hold prisoners who report sexual abuse in TCC or other segregated
housing in order to keep them safe from further abuse or retaliation, ensure that such
prisoners have access to privileges, including visitation, commissary, programming, and
vocational opportunities.

•

Ensure that prisoners have a confidential option for reporting sexual abuse and sexual
harassment, anonymously if requested, including an option that is independent from
NJDOC.

•

Ensure that prisoners receive information and education on how to access all confidential
reporting options and SID.

•

Ensure that prisoners who report sexual abuse have access to victim advocates mental
health care professionals for emotional support services related to sexual abuse.

•

Develop and implement a system for monitoring retaliation, consistent with the PREA
standards, to ensure that persons who report sexual abuse or sexual harassment do not
experience retaliation by other prisoners or staff.

13

State of New Jersey v. Jason Mays, Judgment of Conviction & Order for Commitment, HNT-16-00671,
CRM2018560286 (Sep. 17, 2018).
14
Id.

27

•

Develop and implement a new staffing plan, taking into account all the factors delineated
in 28 C.F.R. § 115.13(a), in order to ensure adequate staffing levels and, where
applicable, real-time video monitoring, to protect prisoners from sexual abuse.

•

Develop and implement a plan to recruit additional women correction officers to work at
Edna Mahan in a manner that complies with Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, as
amended, 42 U.S.C. §§ 2000e, et seq.

•

Develop and implement a plan to designate reasonably necessary gender-restricted posts
at Edna Mahan, through a process that will determine compliance with Title VII of the
Civil Rights Act of 1964, as amended, 42 U.S.C. §§ 2000e, et seq., and ensure the
requirements are met for bona-fide occupational qualifications.

•

Complete and implement the plan for strategic placement of additional cameras at Edna
Mahan, with appropriate oversight and review of camera footage.

•

Cameras and video maintenance systems installed should have the capability of retaining
video data for not less than 90 days and capacity to store selected video indefinitely.

•

Ensure that access to and from the Edna Mahan compound is through secure checkpoints
only.

•

Ensure that anyone entering the Edna Mahan compound, including staff, undergoes
appropriate contraband screening.

•

Conduct an inventory of all abandoned, dilapidated, or currently out of use structures on
the Edna Mahan compound and develop and implement plans to demolish or secure any
buildings that pose a threat to institutional security or provide opportunities for sexual
abuse.

•

If Edna Mahan determines that it will continue to utilize the old upholstery warehouse,
Edna Mahan shall clear the space of unused equipment and inventory that pose safety
concerns and create blind spots.

•

All SID investigators and administrators must receive specialized training in sexual abuse
investigations. Specialized training shall include techniques for interviewing sexual
abuse victims, proper use of Miranda v. Arizona, 384 U.S. 436 (1966), and Garrity v.
New Jersey, 385 U.S. 493 (1967), warnings, sexual abuse evidence collection in
confinement settings, and the criteria and evidence required to substantiate a case for
administrative action or prosecution referral.

•

All SID investigative staff must disclose any personal relationships with Edna Mahan
staff who may be the subject of a current SID investigation, and must recuse themselves
from participating in an investigation involving any Edna Mahan staff member with
whom they have a personal relationship.
28

•

Edna Mahan’s Administrator should have access to investigative files and regular
briefings of PREA investigations that include sufficient details so that the facility
Administrator and/or the incident review team has sufficient information to devise and
implement any necessary movement, discipline, or corrective action.
VI.

CONCLUSION

We have reasonable cause to believe that Edna Mahan violates the constitutional rights of
prisoners in its care, resulting in serious harm and the substantial risk of serious harm.
Specifically, Edna Mahan fails to protect women prisoners from harm due to sexual abuse by
staff. Finally, as explained above, we have reasonable cause to believe that Edna Mahan’s
violations are pursuant to a pattern or practice of resistance to the full enjoyment of rights
protected by the Eighth Amendment
We look forward to working cooperatively with the State of New Jersey to ensure that
these violations are remedied. We are obligated to advise you that 49 days after issuance of this
letter, the Attorney General may initiate a lawsuit pursuant to CRIPA to correct deficiencies
identified in this letter if State officials have not satisfactorily addressed our concerns. 42 U.S.C.
§ 1997b(a)(1). The Attorney General may also move to intervene in related private suits 15 days
after issuance of this letter. 42 U.S.C. § 1997c(b)(1)(A). Please also note that this Notice is a
public document. It will be posted on the Civil Rights Division’s website.

29

 

 

The Habeas Citebook Ineffective Counsel Side
PLN Subscribe Now Ad 450x450
Prison Phone Justice Campaign