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Feds found rampant sex abuse at N.J. women’s prison. New panel will study reforms.

S.P. Sullivan | July 31, 2020 | NJ Advance Media |

A new commission will examine the sexual abuse and exploitation of New Jersey prisoners following a scathing U.S. Justice Department report that found widespread problems at the state’s women’s prison.

The state Assembly on Thursday gave unanimous final passage to a resolution creating the Commission to Protect New Jersey Inmates from Sexual Assault and Sexual Misconduct.

The 17-member panel will consist of a bipartisan group of lawmakers, appointees from the Department of Corrections, the state attorney general, the Department of Children and Families, and the state public defender, as well as former inmates, corrections officers and civil rights advocates.

It was created by a joint resolution. The Senate passed the measure in May.

Lawmakers approved the panel after an April report from the Justice Department and the U.S. Attorney’s Office in New Jersey found sex abuse at the Edna Mahan Correctional Facility for Women was “an open secret” that violated the Eighth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution and the federal Civil Rights of Institutionalized Persons Act.

The federal probe followed a series of NJ Advance Media reports showing problems at the Hunterdon County prison were far wider than corrections officials had publicly acknowledged.

The Justice Department investigation focused on conditions at Edna Mahan, which is the state’s only women’s facility, but the commission will look at issues across all of the state’s prisons.

“While we have enacted multiple pieces of legislation to address issues of sexual assault and misconduct at Edna Mahan Correctional Facility, it is abundantly clear that more needs to be done,” said state Sen. Linda Greenstein, the head of the Senate Law and Public Safety Committee, in a statement.


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