Bill Text: NJ S2927 | 2020-2021 | Regular Session | Introduced


Bill Title: Requires DOC to implement certain procedures to facilitate reporting of sexual abuse by Edna Mahan inmates.

Spectrum: Partisan Bill (Democrat 2-0)

Status: (Introduced) 2020-09-17 - Introduced in the Senate, Referred to Senate Law and Public Safety Committee [S2927 Detail]

Download: New_Jersey-2020-S2927-Introduced.html

SENATE, No. 2927

STATE OF NEW JERSEY

219th LEGISLATURE

 

INTRODUCED SEPTEMBER 17, 2020

 


 

Sponsored by:

Senator  LINDA R. GREENSTEIN

District 14 (Mercer and Middlesex)

 

 

 

 

SYNOPSIS

     Requires DOC to implement certain procedures to facilitate reporting of sexual abuse by Edna Mahan inmates.

 

CURRENT VERSION OF TEXT

     As introduced.

  


An Act concerning reporting of sexual abuse by certain inmates and supplementing Title 30 of the Revised Statutes. 

 

     Be It Enacted by the Senate and General Assembly of the State of New Jersey:

 

     1.  a.  The Commissioner of Corrections shall establish a secure, reliable, and confidential method for inmates incarcerated in the Edna Mahan Correctional Facility for Women to report complaints of sexual abuse. 

     (1)  A fee shall not be charged to report a complaint of sexual assault pursuant to this section.

     (2)   There shall be an option for the complainant to remain anonymous.

     (3)   An inmate with limited English speaking skills shall be provided an opportunity to file a complaint in the inmate's native language.

     (4)   Inmates shall be clearly informed that the method of reporting is strictly confidential.

     b.    Inmates in the facility shall be provided with clear and accurate information on how to file a confidential complaint of sexual abuse pursuant to this section and how to directly file a complaint with the facility's Special Investigations Division.

     c.     The commissioner shall prohibit the transfer of an inmate who files a complaint of sexual abuse to segregated housing unless, based on a thorough and documented assessment of all available alternatives, the transfer is necessary to protect the complainant from further abuse or retaliation by the alleged abuser.  If segregation is deemed to be necessary,  the inmate shall not be denied any privilege to which the inmate would otherwise be entitled including, but not limited to, visitation, commissary, programming, and vocational opportunities. 

     d.    An inmate who files a complaint of sexual abuse shall be offered the services of a victim advocate who is not affiliated with the facility with expertise in providing emotional support services related to the sexual abuse.

     e.     The commissioner shall institute policies and procedures to  monitor retaliation by any correctional police officer, civilian staff member, or other inmate against an inmate who files a complaint alleging sexual assault.  These policies and procedures shall comply with the standards set forth in the federal Prison Rape Elimination Act. 

 

     2.  This act shall take effect on the first day of the seventh month next following enactment.

 

STATEMENT

    

     This bill implements several provisions to facilitate the reporting

of sexual abuse by inmates in the Edna Mahan Correctional Facility for Women, the State's only prison for women. 

     The bill specifically requires the Department of Corrections (DOC) to establish a secure, reliable, and confidential method for  inmates incarcerated in the Edna Mahan Correctional Facility for Women to report complaints of sexual abuse.  Inmates are to be provided with clear and accurate information on how to report a confidential complaint under the bill's provision, as well as to how to file a complaint with the facility's Special Investigations Division (SID).  Inmates are to be given an opportunity to file a complaint in their native language and are to be given assurances that their complaints are confidential, in order to allay inmates' fear of retaliation that exists under the current methods of reporting these complaints. 

     Under the bill, inmates are prohibited from being transferred to segregated housing, such as temporary close custody, unless there is no alternative that will keep the inmate safe from the alleged abuser.  If segregation is  necessary, the bill directs that the inmate receive all privileges that the inmate received while in the general population, including visitation, commissary, programming, and vocational opportunities.  Currently, inmates who file a complaint of sexual abuse typically are subjected to an invasive physical examination and transferred to a temporary close custody unit similar to inmates placed in disciplinary segregation.  These inmates are housed in one-unit cells in a maximum security setting with little outside time and deprived of the privileges to which they would otherwise be entitled. This treatment, perceived by inmates to be punitive, deters reporting of sexual abuse.

     The bill further requires an inmate who files a complaint of sexual abuse to be offered the services of a victim advocate who is not affiliated with the facility and provides emotional support services related to the sexual abuse.  This practice recently has been discontinued at the facility.

     To encourage reporting of sexual abuse, the bill requires the DOC to institute policies and procedures to monitor retaliation by correctional police officers, civilian staff, or other inmates against an inmate who files a complaint alleging sexual assault. 

     This bill is in response to the April 2020 report published by the Civil Rights Division of the United States Department of Justice and the United States Attorney's Office District of New Jersey entitled "Investigation of the Edna Mahan Correctional Facility for Women (Union Township, New Jersey)."  The report concluded that there is reasonable cause to believe conditions at Edna Mahan violate the Eighth Amendment of the United States Constitution due to facility staff sexually abusing inmates.  The report further concludes that the sexual abuse is pursuant to a pattern or practice of resistance to the full enjoyment of these Eighth Amendment rights. 

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