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New Jersey partially closes its sole women’s-only prison

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New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy said Wednesday his administration has shuttered part of the state’s only women’s prison, partly fulfilling a promise made more than two years ago to close the facility amid reports of sexual abuse and misconduct there.

The Democratic governor said people in minimum security have been moved to a newer satellite facility near the Edna Mahan Correctional Facility for Women in Clinton while planning for a new women’s prison is still underway. Those considered to require medium and maximum security are still housed at the older Edna Mahan facility.

The interim satellite facility dates to 1991, compared with the 110-year-old women’s prison and has more modern living conditions, temperature control and natural light, the governor’s office said in an emailed statement.

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Victoria Kuhn, the state’s top corrections official, said the relocation is just temporary and that a “purpose-built” prison will be constructed. In the meantime, she said, the satellite facility would help with rehabilitation and reentry into society.

Edna Mahan Correctional Facility for Women

The Edna Mahan Correctional Facility for Women is seen in Clinton, New Jersey, June 8, 2021. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig, File)

The decision to close the prison was announced in June 2021. It followed months of headlines from the facility that year, beginning in January with what the attorney general said was a “brutal” attack on women housed at the facility by guards. Some women were punched and pepper-sprayed during what the attorney general said were cell extractions. That episode led to more than a dozen guards being charged, with trials still pending.

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It was followed in August that year of an agreement between the state and the U.S. Department of Justice to set up a monitor at the facility. At the time, state officials said the deal was a way to close out a “sordid” part of the facility’s past and move forward.

Apart from the January 2021 attack, the prison had long been considered troubled. In April 2021, the state announced a $20 million settlement with women who were incarcerated at the prison over years of sexual abuse and misconduct.

Murphy said in a statement that the safety of people incarcerated in state facilities “is of the utmost importance.”

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A report on the prison’s closure released alongside Wednesday’s announcement notes that inter-agency planning for a new women’s prison is underway. It’s unclear how long it will take until a new facility will be completed.


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