Newly released videos show cell extractions that led to 10 officers being charged at NJ women’s prison

New Jersey

A screenshot from one of the videos released from Edna Mahan Correctional Facility. (Office of the Attorney General)

TRENTON, N.J. — New Jersey Attorney General Gurbir Grewal released 10 videos that give a look at what happened on the night of Jan. 11, 2021 into the morning hours which led to a series of alleged assaults at the state’s only women’s prison and the state department of corrections chief stepping down.

total of 10 officers have been charged in the most recent incident at Edna Mahan, which occurred in the late night hours between Jan. 11 and 12, according to Attorney General Grewal.

Between approximately 10:30 p.m. on Jan. 11 and 1:15 a.m. on Jan. 12, New Jersey DOC officers and supervisors assigned to the Edna Mahan Correctional Facility in Clinton conducted forced cell extractions of inmates located in the Restorative Housing Unit complex.

The videos can be viewed in full on the New Jersey Attorney General’s office website. The videos contain images of violence and vulgar language.

The videos released Wednesday — which in total amount to about 90 minutes of footage — shows officers punching an inmate about the head, yelling “stop resisting!” as she gasps for air following the cloud of pepper spray. State prosecutors say she was punched 28 times.

In one of the videos, officers are seen punching an inmate about the head, yelling “stop resisting!” as a cloud of pepper spray wafts over her, making her breathing a struggle. Other videos show scenes of the cell extractions. In the videos, some of the women are trying to stop the officers from tearing off their clothes.

Another inmate (all of the inmates’ faces are censored) is seen being inspected with visible traces of blood on her clothes.

As of June 30, a total of 10 officers have been charged in this most recent incident at Edna Mahan, the state’s lone women’s prison. Mahan has a long history of abusive conduct by officers, with the state settling for just over $20 million with over 20 victims dating back to 2014 earlier in April.

New Jersey Department of Corrections Ombudsman Dan DiBenedetti announced his resignation effective Aug. 1 on April 9 after tense hearings in front of the state assembly’s judiciary and women & children committees just a day before. Several state politicians had called for DiBenedetti’s resignation after the hearings, in which he admitted to not having been to Edna Mahan Correctional Facility in over a year and could not name a policy proposal he had come up with to fix the problems.

On June 7, Murphy announced the prison would close. The next day, Department of Corrections Chief Marcus O. Hicks resigned. The state legislature has passed several bills in an attempt at reform.

Murphy announced his intention to close Edna Mahan on Monday, after reviewing a 75-page investigative report he commissioned on the attack by mostly male prison guards on female inmates.

Among the new details in the document: some female inmates were forced to strip and submit to searches in front of male guards.

The 75-page report is based on interviews with some officers — as well as Hicks — and the corrections ombudsperson, videos, and 21,000 documents and emails.

It offers details about the Jan. 11 and 12 attacks on what Attorney General Gurbir Grewal said were at least six inmates. Among its findings are that guards used excessive force on inmates and filed false reports after removing inmates from their cells. The staff also failed to bar male guards from viewing female inmates during strip searches, in violation of policy.

The report also offers new details about what led up to the attack and how it unfolded.

It says that in the days before the attack, there was “a coordinated effort” by some inmates to “splash” prison guards, a term referring to throwing liquids, including urine and feces, at them.

Murphy said he was “deeply disturbed and disgusted” by the attacks against inmates.

“Individuals in state custody deserve to be treated with dignity and respect, and the officers involved in this incident, both directly and indirectly, abused their power to send a message that they were in charge,” he said.

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