VICTIMS WELCOME FINDINGS BY FEDERAL INVESTIGATORS OF RAMPANT SEXUAL ABUSE AT NEW JERSEY WOMEN’S PRISON
Fight for justice continues for victims at Edna Mahan Correctional Facility
Numerous current and former inmate-victims at New Jersey’s Edna Mahan Correctional Facility For Women are for the first time speaking out through their attorneys in support of the just-released Federal investigation (DOJ Report) that forcefully and methodically criticized the prison for systematically failing “to protect women prisoners from harm due to sexual abuse by staff.”
A number of the victims who are plaintiffs in pending civil lawsuits against the Hunterdon County prison and state Department of Corrections, said they welcomed the “thorough investigation and report that demonstrates to the public and legislators the extent to which a longstanding and toxic atmosphere of sexual discrimination has existed at the Edna Mahan Correctional Facility.”
Attorney Oliver T. Barry, of Barry, Corrado, Grassi & Gillin-Schwartz, PC, of Wildwood, New Jersey, which represents 14 of the abuse victims, said his clients, some of whom are still incarcerated and had cooperated in the Department of Justice probe despite fear of reprisal, “felt vindicated when they learned that the report had substantiated their claims that Edna Mahan ‘fails to protect women prisoners from sexual abuse by staff in violation of the [civil rights]; and exposes women prisoners to substantial risk of serious harm from sexual abuse in violation of [their civil rights].’”
Attorneys Stefanie Colella-Walsh, and Martin P. Schrama, of Stark & Stark’s Princeton office, have been leading the way in the attempt to achieve class status for the population at New Jersey’s only women’s prison. “We are now planning the next steps in light of the DOJ report,” said Ms. Colella-Walsh. “The DOJ is to be commended for shining a light on the pattern and practice of harassment and abuse that we, too, are committed to ending once and for all,” she added.
Former Edna Mahan inmate Marianne Brown, a plaintiff in the proposed class action (Brown vs State of NJ DOC, NJSC, MER L-BROWN VS STATE OF NEW JERSEY DOC, NJSC, MER L -000503 18), said after reading the report,
“You get so used to living in fear, including fear of the truth getting out, that I never thought this day would come. Our work isn’t over because the people in charge still haven’t accepted responsibility for years of inmate suffering, physically and psychologically.”
Another former inmate, identified as A.F. in the lawsuit to protect her privacy, and who was assaulted by a corrections officer while at Edna Mahan, said,
“The report captured exactly what it was like at the prison. I hope no one else at Edna Mahan ever has to go through what we did.”
And a third former inmate, identified as C.C. in the lawsuit, added,
“I was so happy because I never thought I would see the day when the abuse at Edna Mahan would be out in the open.”
While these and other former inmates praised the DOJ report, they also remain deeply concerned – especially given outbreaks of COVID-19 in jails and prisons throughout America – for the health and safety of those currently incarcerated at Edna Mahan.
Mr. Barry, Mr. Schrama, and Ms. Colella-Walsh, who have been working together on these cases for several years, also commended the Hunterdon County Prosecutor’s Office and Prosecutor Kelly Daniels, who has worked tirelessly to hold individual correctional officers at the facility accountable for their criminal conduct.
Coverage Note: Attorneys Barry, Schrama and Colella-Walsh will be available (see below contact information) for media interviews through the day on April 20th.