Home Womens jersey A ‘gender specialist’ will be hired and other reforms will be made at the New Jersey troubled women’s prison

A ‘gender specialist’ will be hired and other reforms will be made at the New Jersey troubled women’s prison

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New Jersey’s only women’s prison, which is under independent oversight after brutality and sexual abuse scandals, will hire a “gender specialist” to support transgender inmates, has equipped all correctional officers with body cameras and has intensified its efforts to recruit babysitters.

State Department of Corrections officials and independent observers pointed to the changes at a town hall meeting Friday to detail progress made by the struggling Edna Mahan Correctional Facility since the US Department of Justice accused the state in 2018 of long-ignored civil rights abuses.

Under a settlement agreement reached last year, the state is required to implement far-reaching reforms. Friday’s meeting focused on progress made from February to August this year and marked the end of the first year of the three-year agreement.

Jane Parnell, the appointed overseer, said she had spent the last few months touring the premises and speaking with inmates and staff. She plans to release a written report in early November.

Reported changes include:

  • A gender specialist will be hired at Edna Mahan to provide psychotherapy services and support transgender and gender questioning inmates. Last spring, the department disclosed that a transgender inmate had impregnated two other inmates at Edna Mahan, prompting officials to review their housing and other policies on transgender inmates. Those policies remain under review, according to department commissioner Victoria Kuhn.
  • A new Special Victims Unit was launched in April to handle system-wide complaints of sexual abuse. Fifty-four complaints were filed this year from January to August, but 37% of them were filed by a single inmate, who was later charged with falsifying statements, said Kelly Daniels of the Special Investigations Division of the department. Twenty-two cases remain open, but none of the others have been substantiated, Daniels said. She credited the increase in video surveillance with helping to reduce false claims.
  • The ministry has stepped up its recruitment efforts to hire more female correctional officers. About half of Edna Mahan’s guards are women, said Kristina Chubenko, the department’s chief of staff.
  • Officials installed more fixed cameras at Edna Mahan and put more than 190 body cameras on rotation to equip all correctional officers on duty.

The aging Hunterdon County Jail remains set to close, although Kuhn declined to say when because officials are still awaiting recommendations and timing from a hired consultant to identify a new location. Edna Mahan is now home to around 400 women, according to department data.

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