Twelve women legislators from both parties are backing a plan by Assemblywoman Jean Stanfield (R-Westampton) to impeach state Commissioner of Corrections Marcus Hicks over allegations that women inmates at the embattled Edna Mahan Correctional Facility are being beaten and sexually assaulted by prison guards.
Assemblywomen Valerie Vainieri Huttle (D-Englewood) and Nancy Munoz (R-Summit) are listed as prime sponsors of an impeachment resolution alleging that Hicks, “through his actions and inactions … is responsible for violating prisoners’ civil rights, which are protected by state and federal law.”
Two other Democrats – Shanique Speight (D-Newark) and Britnee Timberlake (D-East Orange) – are co-sponsoring the measure, along with GOP assemblywomen Aura Dunn (R-Mendham), Holly Schepisi (R-River Vale), Betty Lou DeCroce (R-Parsippany), Serena DiMaso (R-Holmdel) and DiAnne Gove (R-Long Beach).
Two influential state senators who will determine Hicks’ fate if the Assembly impeaches him – Senate Assistant Majority Leader Sandra Cunningham (D-Jersey City) and Senate Minority Conference Leader Kristin Corrado (R-Totowa) – have indicated their support of removing Hicks through impeachment.
“The women at Edna Mahan Correctional Facility have been silenced for far too long while enduring unspeakable pain and suffering at the hands of corrections officers who were sworn to protect them,” said Stanfield. “The women leaders of New Jersey will not back down on this issue until Commissioner Hicks is gone and new leadership can begin the healing that this administration has spectacularly failed at.”
The Articles of Impeachment charge Hicks with failing to “take reasonable measures to protect and guarantee the safety of inmates under his charge in violation of the Eighth Amendment” and suggests that Hicks has violated the public trust.
“Prisoners are still people. We as a State must take a leadership role in ensuring dignity and safety for everyone, including those who are incarcerated,” said Huttle. “We have called for the resignation of Commissioner Hicks and this resolution aims to bring accountability to the DOC. Regardless, reforms are still sorely needed to address the systemic abuse within our system.”
Hicks has refused to resign, and Gov. Phil Murphy has declined comment on whether he’d fire him until an independent probe he commissioned is complete.
The U.S. Department of Justice issued a scathing report last year alleging rampant abuse at the only state prison for women.
Attorney General Gurbir Grewal announced last week that he filed criminal charges against three corrections officers.
“Women have been sexually assaulted and beaten within an inch of their lives, and prison guards have been charged and convicted on multiple occasions for the crimes they committed at the correctional facility,” Stanfield stated “We’ve already seen prior investigations detailing the atrocities at Edna Mahan. It’s time to act. We cannot wait for this administration to conduct another investigation before he’s ready to make the right decision.”