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Sex Abuse In New Jersey’s Prison for Women: Mahan Correctional Facility in Union Township Had “Culture of Silence” Around Sex Abuse

Sexual assault occurs throughtout Union County including in Union Township, Elizabeth and Cranford.On Thursday, February 22, former inmates who served time at the Edna Mahan Correctional Facility for Women, a facility in Union Township, testified before the New Jersey State Senate – they had an unsettling story to tell. The former inmates who served time at Mahan, the only women’s prison in the State, testified that they were sexually abused by corrections officers.

They testified that they had seen countless women raped in the prison. They testified that they spoke up, they reported the incidents, they complained. They testified that nothing was done.

The common theme through all of the testimony at the hearing was that there was “culture of silence” at the prison. The Senate Law and Public Safety Committee convened the hearing, following a number of media reports regarding problems at the Hunterdon County prison.

The hearing attempted to cover many points of view in addition to the inmates. The hearing included experts on sexual violence, prison reform advocates, corrections officers, and union leaders.

The new Governor, Phil Murphy, issued a statement through his spokesman, that he was “extremely disturbed by the unacceptable conditions” at the prison and was “working closely with his team to gain a full understanding of the situation.” For his part Governor Murphy invited Gary Lanigan to stay on as Commissioner of the Department of Corrections.

The previous governor appointed Lanigan in 2010. However, Lanigan must be re-confirmed by the State Senate. Amid the reports, accusations, criminal cases, and lawsuits surrounding sexual abuse by NJ corrections officers, the State Senate feels that Lanigan will have problems getting confirmed unless more answers about the abuse accusations are forthcoming.

A Primer On The Crime Of Sexual Assault In New Jersey

New Jersey’s legal term for rape is sexual assault. Under the New Jersey Sexual Assault Law contained at N.J.S.A. 2C:14-2(c), a person is guilty of sexual assault if he commits an act of sexual penetration with another person and one of the following circumstances is present:

1. Force or coercion: The actor used force or coercion, and the victim did not sustain severe personal injury.

2. Victim under supervision: The victim is on probation or parole, or is detained in a hospital, prison or other institution; and the actor has supervisory or disciplinary power over the victim by virtue of the actor’s legal, professional or occupational status.

3. Victim between 16 and 18 years old. The victim is at least 16 but less than 18 years old, and the actor (i) is related to the victim by blood; (ii) has supervisory or disciplinary power over the victim; or (iii) is a caregiver or guardian of the victim.

4. Victim between 13 and 16 years old. The victim is at least 13 but less than 16 years old, and the actor is at least 4 years older than the victim.

Potential penalties for Sexual Assault. Sexual assault is second-degree crime, which carries a possible 5 to 10 years in prison and a fine up to $150,000. In addition, a conviction for sexual assault may include registration requirements under Megan’s Law, which could last well beyond other punishments imposed for the offense.

Sexual Assault vs. Sexual Contact. Sexual contact is a lesser form of sexual abuse in the eyes of the law. Rather than requiring “sexual penetration,” the offense of sexual contact requires “an intentional touching” of intimate parts with the purpose of humiliating the victim or arousing the perpetrator. While sexual assault is a second-degree crime, criminal sexual contact is a fourth-degree crime, which carries a possible 18 months in prison and a fine up to $10,000.

The corrections officers who are accused of sexual abuse at the Mahan women’s facility and elsewhere in NJ have been accused of either sexual contact or sexual assault. In addition, the accused corrections officers are government employees. So, they also will face official misconduct charges by virtue of their position with the State.

Union County Sex Assault and Sexual Contact Lawyers

Without question, sexual abuse crimes have immense legal, emotional, and social, consequences. The Law Offices of Jonathan F. Marshall have a team of top-notch criminal defense attorneys who can effectively and zealously represent those charged with sexual abuse crimes in Union County and throughout the State. Call us at 908-272-1700 today and consult with one of our expert lawyers. The initial consultation is free.