Two incarcerated women at New Jersey’s only all-female prison are now pregnant after engaging in consensual sexual intercourse with transgender inmates.
The unidentified expectant mothers are housed at the Edna Mahan Correction Facility in Clinton, NJ — a facility so riddled with violence and scandal that New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy announced last June that he would be closing it.
While an investigation has been launched in the prison — which currently houses more than 800 women, including 27 transgender inmates — it is unclear at this time whether the women both slept with the same transgender inmate. It is also not known how far along the women are or if they intend to see their pregnancies to term.
Following a settled lawsuit against the facility brought last year by a transgender inmate and the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of New Jersey, Edna Mahan began housing transgender inmates, including those who have yet to undergo gender reassignment surgery, last year, according to NJ.com.
New Jersey Department of Corrections (DOC) External Affairs Executive Director Dan Sperrazza was unable to comment on any possible disciplinary actions the prison may take but says all options are on the table.
“While DOC cannot comment on any specific disciplinary or housing decisions that may be considered in light of these events, the Department always reserves all options to ensure the health and safety of the individuals in its custody,” Sperrazza stated.
ACLU New Jersey’s legal director, Jeanne LoCicero, defended the prison’s transgender policy on Tuesday, stating it “reflects best practices to ensure the health, dignity, and safety of people in [DOC] custody.”
“(It) is in line with New Jersey’s strong anti-discrimination laws that prevent discrimination and harassment on the basis of gender identity,” LoCicero said in a statement.
However, according to union officials, the policy is a detriment to both the prison officers and the incarcerated population.
“We opposed this policy change believing it would be detrimental to the general population of female inmates being housed at Edna Mahan and also bring added stress to our correctional police officers assigned to this institution,” said William Sullivan, president of NJ PBA Local 105, which represents the majority of correctional officers in the region.
“All female” pic.twitter.com/1iJTGdlT0M
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This isn’t the first time Edna Mahan’s transgender policies have come under scrutiny.
Last year, two of the facility’s inmates filed a class-action lawsuit that called for the immediate removal of “any and all male pre-operative transgender inmates.” According to the filing, the inmates alleged harassment by some of the transgender inmates as well as sexual contact between the transgender inmates and biological females.
In an affidavit supporting the lawsuit, one transgender inmate of 20 years called the prison’s current policy “very questionable.” The prisoner had received gender surgery prior to being incarcerated and opposed the policy.
“I believe it is highly inappropriate for the NJDOC to place pre-operative male-to-female allegedly transgender inmates in a women’s prison,” she stated.
As per the settlement agreement reached between the facility and the ACLU, the DOC must keep the current policy, which must consider “all aspects of an inmate’s social and medical transition,” in place for at least one year before reassessing its effectiveness.
Bonnie Kerness, program director for the non-profit American Friends Service Committee’s prisoner advocacy program, says the DOC and Edna Mahan’s newly-formed Board of Trustees need to take a closer look at the transgender policy with an eye to improving it.
“There needs to be an appropriate process that protects the cis women and the trans women already there,” Kerness stated.
Plans by Gov. Murphy to shut the facility down followed explosive charges of brutality against female inmates, who were reportedly dragged from their cells and assaulted in the middle of the night. Criminal charges were filed against 15 officers, and the DOC Commissioner, Marcus Hicks, was forced to resign.
No word on when Edna Mahan will be closed.
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