Thirty-one staff members at the Edna Mahan Correctional Facility, New Jersey’s only women’s state prison, have been suspended following reports of inmate abuse by prison guards.
The New York Times reports 22 guards, nine supervisors and the prison’s top administrator have all been suspended. The New Jersey attorney general’s office has opened an investigation into the matter and the State Assembly announced it will be holding hearings to look into the accounts of abuse.
Leader of the State Assembly Craig Coughlin (D) said in a statement to the Times, “A pattern has developed at the facility and those supervising it are not doing nearly enough to protect its vulnerable inmates.”
“We need answers and we need reform,” he added.
One of the incidents at the center of the investigation involves the transgender daughter of Trimeka Rollins, who has not been publicly named.
According to the Times, four guards handcuffed and beat Rollins’s daughter on Jan. 11. A ligament in her knee was broken, forcing her to rely on a wheelchair.
“We thought it would be a little different,” Rollins told the Times, as her daughter had previously been incarcerated at several men’s prisons where she had also faced abuse.
According to William Sullivan, president of the state correctional officers union, 11 of the guards suspended where male and 11 were female. Speaking to the Times, he voiced support for the investigation into the incident.
"Let me be clear: Every individual in state custody deserves to be treated with dignity and respect, and we must always remember that female inmates have long been uniquely vulnerable to abuse," New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy (D) said in a statement obtained by the Times.
This is not the first time the prison has been in the news for its guards' mistreatment of prisoners, the Times notes. In April, the Department of Justice found that guards routinely sexually assaulted prisoners or forced to perform sexual acts with other prisoners while guards watched.
Although several guards were arrested, the problem has continued, the Times reports.