(CNN) – A video recently released and obtained by CNN shows prison officers allegedly abusing inmates at a soon-to-be-closed women’s correctional facility in New Jersey.
The edited images show correctional officers removing inmates from their cells, physically restraining inmates, beating inmates, and putting pepper spray in cells with closed doors. The images were first made public through open records requests made by the Associated Press and other parties.
Governor Phil Murphy announced in June that he would close the Edna Mahan Correctional Center for Women (EMCF), which was New Jersey’s only women’s prison, after an independent report it commissioned detailed the abuse allegations against female inmates.
“I just made a decision. Enough. We are turning the page,” he said. Murphy June 7th. “This is a multi-year process. You can’t just flip a switch. I think New York City is in the middle of an eight-year process on Rikers Island. Jeez, let’s get this over with much quicker than that.”
EMCF correctional officers were charged in the report with abusing inmates on the night of January 11 when inmates were taken from cells after they allegedly “doused” correctional officers with unidentified bodily fluids and other fluids. The governor said that in light of the report’s findings, “the only way forward is to responsibly close the facility.”
The New Jersey Department of Corrections (DOC) did not immediately respond to CNN’s request for comment on the images just released Monday. In June, a spokesperson told CNN that the department was taking the allegations seriously.
“Since first learning of the January 11 incident at the Edna Mahan Correctional Center for Women, the Department took swift action to suspend 34 staff members and immediately requested the assistance of the Attorney General’s Office and the State Attorney’s Office to investigate conduct for possible criminal cause, “DOC spokeswoman Liz Velez told CNN last month.
What the video shows
In a 95-minute edited video obtained by CNN, several officers in riot gear are seen entering the cell of a woman, whose face is blurred. They pepper her with pepper spray and one starts hitting her and yelling at her when she appears to be trying to cover her head and face.
The video appears to be from a body camera and security cameras.
The woman coughs and screams during the encounter. He can be heard at one point saying, “Did you finish punching me in the face like this?” and you like this?”
Five officers are seen leading her out of her cell into a hallway full of other officers, and one officer is heard saying, “You are going to walk like a normal human being, understand?”
They take her to a medical area where she tells a woman who is not visible: “They broke my lip. They punched me in the face. They punched me in the chest. They punched me for no reason. I don’t know why. They had just attacked me. I was sleeping; they … entered my room and attacked me. “
The video also shows other inmates being pepper sprayed and beaten before being removed from their cells. An inmate’s arm was broken, according to the report.
Officers charged in the incident
Several prison officers are accused of submitting false reports about what happened that night, including one that said the victim was punching him in the torso, a claim that is not supported by video evidence at the scene, according to the Attorney General’s Office.
In all, 10 correctional officers face various charges ranging from tampering with records and official misconduct to aggravated assault, state attorney Gurbir S. Grewal announced last month. He said at the time that one inmate received about 28 punches and another was beaten while handcuffed.
The incident is just one of many reported at the facility.
Last April, the Justice Department wrote in a notice after a two-year investigation that there are “reasonable grounds to believe” that conditions at the EMCF violate the Eighth Amendment, which prohibits “cruel and unusual punishments” due to “abuse. prisoner sex by facility personnel “and that” these violations are due to a pattern or practice of resistance to the full enjoyment of the rights protected by the Eighth Amendment. “
The Justice Department wrote that the facility “does not protect victims who report abuse as an excuse for retaliation,” subjects those who report sexual abuse to “harsh and isolating conditions” and that facility officials were aware of the abuse and they ignored it, among other findings.
Earlier this year, a transgender woman was sent to a men’s prison after filing a lawsuit for abuse at the facility. She has been transferred to an out-of-state women’s center, according to her lawyer.
The woman had filed a lawsuit in March, claiming she was one of several inmates who were attacked by prison officers at the facility earlier this year, including the January 11 incident.
The incident in early January triggered a joint investigation by the Attorney General’s Office of Integrity and Public Responsibility and the Hunterdon County Attorney’s Office, according to the Attorney General’s office. Murphy said he was “disgusted by the horrible reports” and ordered a full independent investigation by the former state comptroller.