Former New Jersey female inmates say they were forced to have sex with guards for toilet paper and sanitary pads
Several women testified during a public forum of the all-female Workgroup on Harassment, Sexual Assault and Misogyny in New Jersey Politics about their horror experience at the state's only prison for women
Several former New Jersey female prisoners have come out to reveal that they had been physically, mentally, and sexually abused by corrections officials during their time behind bars. The women testified during a public forum of the all-female Workgroup on Harassment, Sexual Assault and Misogyny in New Jersey Politics -- a group founded by Senate Majority Leader Loretta Weinberg (D-Bergen) to hear the experiences of women who have faced sexual harassment and misconduct in state and local politics and government.
Marianne Brown was one of six women on the call who had served time at the Edna Mahan Correctional Facility, the state's only women's prison which has repeatedly been criticized for its officials often being openly corrupt and sexual predators. Brown, who finished a 21-year sentence for kidnapping before she was released in November, said when she asked one of the guards for a roll of toilet paper, he shot back, "What are you going to do for me?"
She said she was initially confused but that she quickly realized what the guard was hinting at. "Then, it hit me. You know what it meant. Are you going to give them oral sex?"
She shared that, in her time in prison, she witnessed more instances of abuses than she could count, including male and female correctional officers who sexually assaulted and groped inmates and demanded sexual favors for access to essential items like toilet paper and sanitary pads, as well as forbidden 'treats' like bubblegum.
Alyssa Feldman spoke about being sexually assaulted and harassed by corrections officers who came into their cells and rooms in the prison's minimum-security cottages with no oversight. She said she was assigned to a particular cottage whenever one officer, who she described as the "king of that cottage," wanted and was threatened with delayed parole if she did not comply. "I was at Edna for six months, but it was enough to learn the way things operate, the way things are handled there," she shared. "It was so open… so much corruption."
The punishment for not following orders was varying, reported NJ Advance Media. The women who filed complaints said they were placed in solitary confinement or cells alone with minimal clothing on suicide watch while their personal belongings were damaged or destroyed.
Melissa Deandino, a former inmate of the prison who walked free three years ago, said they were "assaulted physically, mentally, sexually," and that her time behind bars has left her homeless and suffering from post-traumatic stress, paranoia, and a fear of men. Several of the former inmates who testified in front of the Workgroup on Harassment, Sexual Assault and Misogyny in New Jersey Politics are now a part of lawsuits filed against the prison and the state.t
They have the support of Lesly Devereaux, a former top state commerce commission official who served six months for corruption at Edna a decade ago and is now an attorney and minister. "They are telling the truth. There are things that happened in the place that shouldn’t happen just because you made a mistake," she said, revealing her own experience of guards busting up her Bible study group at the prison because they said all the women would end back in prison eventually.
"I am hoping that what comes out of this is there are changes that are made, in terms of legislation, (in) how women and people who are incarcerated are treated," she added.