The edited footage shows correctional officers extracting inmates from their cells, physically restraining inmates, punching inmates, and deploying pepper spray into cells with closed doors. The footage was first made public through open records requests made by the Associated Press and other parties.
Corrections officers at EMCF were accused in the report of abusing inmates on the night of January 11 when inmates were removed from cells after they allegedly “splashed” corrections officers with bodily fluids and other unidentified fluids. The governor said in light of the report’s findings, the “only path forward is to responsibly close the facility.”
“From first learning of the January 11 incident at Edna Mahan Correctional Facility for Women, the Department took swift action to suspend 34 staff members and immediately sought the assistance of the Office of the Attorney General and the Prosecutor’s Office to investigate the conduct for potential criminal prosecution,” DOC spokeswoman Liz Velez told CNN last month.
What the video shows
In a 95-minute edited video obtained by CNN, multiple officers in riot gear are seen walking into the cell of a woman, whose face is blurred. They spray her with pepper spray and one begins punching her and yelling at her as she appears to try to cover her head and face.
The video appears to be from a body-worn camera and security cameras.
The woman is coughing during the encounter and yelling. She can be heard at one point saying, “Are you done punching me in my face like this?” and “You like this?”
Five officers are seen pulling her from her cell into a hallway filled with other officers, and one officer is heard saying, “You’re going to walk like a normal human being, you understand?”
They take her to a medical area where she tells a woman who is not visible, “They busted my lip. They punched me in my face. They punched me in my chest. They punched me for no reason. I don’t know why I was just assaulted. I was sleeping; they … came in my room and assaulted me.”
The video also shows other inmates being pepper-sprayed and punched before being taken from their cells. One inmate’s arm was broken, the report said.
Officers charged in incident
Several correctional officers are accused of submitting false reports about what happened that night, including one who said the victim was throwing punches toward his torso, a claim that’s not supported by video evidence at the scene, according to the attorney general’s office.
The incident is just one of many reported at the facility.
The DOJ wrote that the facility “fails to protect victims who report excuse abuse from retaliation,” subjects those who do report sexual abuse to “hard and isolating conditions,” and that officials at the facility knew about the abuse and disregarded it, among other findings.
Earlier this year, a transgender woman was placed in a men’s prison after filing a lawsuit alleging abuse at the facility. She has been moved to an out-of-state women’s facility, according to her lawyer.
The woman had filed a lawsuit in March, alleging she was one of several inmates attacked by corrections officers at the facility earlier this year, including the January 11 incident.
The early January incident triggered a joint investigation by the Attorney General’s Office of Public Integrity and Accountability and the Hunterdon County Prosecutor’s Office, according to the attorney general’s office. Murphy said he was “sickened by the horrific reports,” and he ordered a full independent investigation by the state’s former comptroller.