TRENTON, N.J. — New Jersey’s State Senate called for Gov. Phil Murphy to fire the commissioner of the state’s department of corrections Thursday.
Both sides of the aisle in Trenton want Murphy to take action following a report of inmate abuse at the Edna Mahan Correctional Facility in Hunterdon County.
The Senate Democrats have also asked for a federal takeover of the facility and for the state to remove all 395 inmates from the prison to put them “in a safer facility and one more conducive to meeting their rehabilitative needs.”
The Dems said Commissioner Marcus Hicks has proven himself unfit for the job.
“[Hicks] has demonstrated time and again that he is not up to the task of running the department of corrections, a department that holds the responsibility for the custody and care of approximately 20,000 state-sentenced offenders housed across 12 state correctional facilities, county jails and community halfway houses,” they wrote in a letter to Gov. Murphy. “Additionally, we are asking that the federal government immediately take control of operations at the Edna Mahan facility and supervision over all programs for women inmates. We will not stand idly by while women who are voiceless and defenseless are repeatedly victimized by the very people who are charged with their protection and care.”
A spokesperson for New Jersey’s Senate Republicans told PIX11 News the caucus agrees that Commissioner Hicks should be removed, either by his own resignation or Gov. Murphy firing him. State Sen. Kristin Corrado, a Republican, criticized Murphy for “circling the wagons” rather than holding his team accountable.
Gov. Murphy announced he was launching an independent investigation into the facility Wednesday.
“I am sickened by the horrific reports of what happened at Edna Mahan on Jan. 11. 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,” he said. “I know Commissioner Hicks took immediate actions and placed a number of staff on leave, and I support these steps, but we must go further.”
Twenty officers were suspended, as well as some supervisors and an associate administrator, NJ PBA Local 105 President William Sullivan told PIX11 News.
A spokesperson for the department of corrections told PIX11 News they welcomed the investigation.
“The health, safety and well being of those entrusted to the confinement and care of the NJDOC is of paramount importance. If wrongdoing is found, the Department shall address it in an expeditious and appropriate manner, as inappropriate use of force shall neither be tolerated nor condoned.”
Additionally, the department of corrections said the department proactively engaged the Hunterdon County Prosecutor’s office to open a criminal investigation.
This all follows a report by NJ.com Wednesday alleging that at least three women at the facility were hurt by officers Jan. 11. The report focused on “one inmate who now has a broken eye socket and a transgender woman beaten so badly she cannot walk and is now in a wheelchair.”