Members and Advocates for Human Rights!
for NJ Women Prisoners
By Maretta J. Short - NOW-NJ President
Wednesday, December 12, 2007
In March 2007, the Department of Corrections pulled 40 women out
of New Jerseyís only womenís prison, the Edna Mahan Correctional
Facility, and put them in lock-down conditions in New Jersey
State Prison, the highest-security menís prison in the state.
The transfers themselves, which took place on two separate
occasions, were brutal and humiliating. Without warning,
armed guards in full riot gear raided a unit of the womenís
prison and pulled women from their cells.
Women chosen for transfer were strip searched while being
videotaped in the presence of male guards. In the chaos,
women sobbed and cried out in panic. Many of the women
have suffered abuse by men and were terrified of going to a
The women, who did nothing to deserve the transfer, are being
subjected to conditions in the New Jersey State Prison far worse
than the men in the same prison and women in the womenís prison.
The women are kept in their cells up to 22 hours a day, not even
being allowed to congregate in common areas.
New Jersey State Prison has a clinic and an infirmary. The
women prisoners are barred from these facilities.
The prison also has a law library. Although a number of
women have pending appeals or other ongoing legal proceedings,
they are completely barred from the law library.
New Jersey State Prison has a school complete with classrooms,
teachers, and teaching materials. The women prisoners are
completely barred from this school.
The women arenít allowed into the main prison yard, but are sent
to exercise in a tiny patch of grass and concrete below the main
Women arenít even provided the supplies necessary to take care
of their bodies. The prison provides insufficient sanitary
napkins and toilet paper.
New Jersey State Prison has no programs to help women stay in
contact with their children.
Other inequalities and humiliations abound ...
The broader context:
The abuses these women are suffering are happening because New
Jersey is putting too many women in prison for too long, and
because the Department of Corrections does not have a coherent
plan for the womenís prison population.
New Jerseyís prison population has grown by over 700% in the
last three decades. Nationally, women are the
fastest-growing segment of the prison population, even though
only a third of women in prison committed violent crimes.
Another third are imprisoned, often for years, for drug
offenses. Imprisonment hurts these women without helping
keep New Jersey safe.
Women who donít really need to be in prison should be placed in
appropriate rehabilitation placements and programs instead.
Doing this would bring the womenís prison population down to a
manageable level, allowing the Department of Corrections to
fulfill its public duties to provide for public safety and
We demand that the Department of Corrections abandon its policy
of involuntarily transferring women prisoners, many of whom are
classified as medium-security and have excellent disciplinary
records, to a giant (1,800 inmate) menís prison described by
both its warden and the American Correctional Association as a
We demand that, for those women who wish to remain in the prison
to be nearer to their families, conditions be drastically
improved and made equal to those of the male prisoners.
We demand that the Department of Corrections present the New
Jersey public with a plan for (1) reducing the needless
incarceration of women, and (2) providing human conditions and
rehabilitative opportunities to women in prison, in accordance
with the Departmentís legal and moral duty.
Maretta J. Short,