Clinton New Jersey July 5 2020
A corrections officer at a New Jersey prison repeatedly sexually assaulted and harassed female prisoners while demanding sexual favors for everyday items like toilet paper, a former inmate claims.
Marianne Brown, a former inmate at Edna Mahan Correctional Facility for Women in Clinton, said a guard had a question for her when she asked for toilet paper while serving a 21-year sentence for kidnapping at the state’s sole women-only lockup, NJ.com reports.
“I was told, ‘What are you going to do for me?’” Brown said Wednesday during an online public forum called the Workgroup on Harassment, Sexual Assault and Misogyny in New Jersey Politics.
Initially confused, Brown said, she quickly caught on to what the prison staffer wanted from her.
“Then, it hit me,” Brown continued. “You know what it meant. Are you going to give them oral sex?”
Brown said she witnessed both male and female guards sexually assault or grope inmates. They also demanded sexual acts in return for daily hygiene items like sanitary pads or banned foodstuffs like bubble gum, Brown said.
Complaints filed against the corrections officers were then “ripped up” in front of inmates’ faces, according to Brown, who was released in September.
“We didn’t pursue a lot of things,” Brown said.
Another former inmate, Alyssa Feldman, claims a corrections officer who had access to her cottage at the minimum-security prison sexually assaulted her during her six-month sentence.
“He was king of that cottage,” Feldman said Wednesday.
The guard, who was not identified, threatened to delay Feldman’s parole if she didn’t comply with his demands, she said.
“I was at Edna for six months, but it was enough to learn the way things operate, the way things are handled there,” Feldman continued. “It was so open … so much corruption.”
A third former inmate, Melissa Deandino, said she and others were assaulted “physically, mentally [and] sexually” by guards at the prison prior to her release some three years ago. The homeless woman now has post-traumatic stress and a fear of men, she said.
“It if takes every ounce of my being to show everybody how messed up that place was, I will do it,” Deandino said. “Something needs to change because it can’t keep going on like this.”
Seven staff members at the prison have been criminally charged in connection with sex abuse claims, including two who pleaded guilty and were sentenced to prison, NJ.com reported in January 2019.
Current inmates reportedly claim the arrests have curtailed the alleged rampant sexual abuse at the prison, but have not stopped the attacks altogether. A US Justice Department report gave state authorities until June to address the issues or face a potential federal civil rights lawsuit, NJ.com reports.
A spokesman for the US Attorney’s Office declined comment Wednesday, the outlet reports.
Some of the women who spoke Wednesday shared their allegations publicly for the first time, according to their attorney.
“It’s apparent that the Department of Corrections is not recognizing or engaging in this problem with us,” attorney Oliver Barry said during the online forum.