Ken’s Comments:

 

This article is about one small prison in NJ, but the very same problems occur in prisons all over America. Women are totally controlled by staff, and every day many are raped … every single day.

While men too are raped, most victims are women.

 

Excerpts from the Article:

 

What goes on behind the bars at the Edna Mahan Correctional Facility for Women? That question is the subject of an ongoing criminal probe by county prosecutors, an independent investigation ordered by the state attorney general last year and, perhaps soon, a special commission being proposed by state lawmakers.

Edna Mahan, a small prison with a population of about 650 inmates in Hunterdon County, has seen seven of its staff members criminally accused of sexually abusing inmates since 2015. Yet facing a scandal that has stretched on for two years across two administrations, the state Department of Corrections has divulged little about what it has done to curb allegations of sexual abuse at the hands of its own staff.

Officials declined to attend a public hearing on conditions at the prison, and to answer specific questions from the media or release unredacted e-mails sought under the state’s records laws. The re-nomination of Commissioner Gary Lanigan was put on hold because lawmakers intended to ask tough questions at his confirmation hearing, and Lanigan later announced his retirement. His replacement, acting Commissioner Marcus Hicks, will likely face those questions at budget hearings in front of the state Legislature scheduled for Wednesday and Thursday.

The criminal trial of Jason Mays, a former senior corrections officer who was convicted last week on charges he sexually abused two inmates at the prison, brought to light new details about the ongoing criminal inquiry and gave glimpses of how abuse can go undetected behind the walls of a state prison.

Although it can take months or years for accusations of abuse to surface, in places that do have cameras, the footage is stored just 30 days before it is erased, one supervising officer testified. And while authorities have long recognized the connection between the prison contraband trade and sexual abuse, there is no policy in place to prevent staff from smuggling cigarettes, food or drugs onto the grounds in their personal vehicles, according to Lt. Hector Smith.

Here, you can drive your car into the facility, which is very, very strange.”

Mays, who was convicted on charges he abused two inmates, was often the lone officer assigned to A Cottage, a minimum security housing unit containing about 40 inmates which is not surveilled by cameras.

Several prisoners testified they had sexual encounters with the officer in the “beauty room,” a spare white room with a brown floor and two basin sinks in front of twin mirrors, where inmates can do their makeup or get a haircut. The room has a window overlooking the walkway, from which Mays could keep watch for anyone approaching the building, the women testified.

Under state law, any sexual contact between inmates and staff is a crime because prisoners cannot legally consent.

The officer, who was found not guilty on 10 counts related to three other inmates, denied those claims and is planning to appeal his conviction, according to his attorney, Leslie Sinemus. In an interview following the verdict, she told NJ Advance Media that while the investigation that led to charges against her client was flawed, it clearly showed the prison’s policies not only put inmates at risk, but also left officers vulnerable to false claims of abuse.

 

 

Without adequate surveillance and staff, investigators in the Special Investigations Division, the prison system’s internal affairs unit, are often left to sift through sometimes-conflicting claims of abuse, whether in the form of confidential complaints or word-of-mouth among inmates.

Win, lose, or draw, whether it happened or didn’t happen, what you absolutely can say is they don’t take sex abuse in custody seriously,” she said. “Because if they did, they’d have different procedures in place.”

Four other corrections officers at the prison still face trials, and prosecutors have said little publicly about the evidence they’ve gathered.

Last week, a pair of state lawmakers also introduced five new bills aimed at cracking down on the prison. One of the sponsors, state Sen. Linda Greenstein, D-Middlesex, said she would amend several of them to apply to prisons statewide.

 

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