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ACLU: Court Bars Corrections Department From Sending More Women to Inhumane Conditions in NJ Men’s Prison

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
July 24, 2008
2:40 PM

CONTACT: ACLU
Maria Archuleta, ACLU national, (212) 549-2666; media@aclu.org|
Allison Peltzman, ACLU of New Jersey, (973) 642-2086 x 11

 
Court Bars Corrections Department From Sending More Women to
Inhumane Conditions in NJ Men’s Prison
Women Prisoners Dealt An Across-The-Board Win
 
TRENTON - July 24 - In three separate opinions today totaling 77 pages, the New Jersey Superior Court stopped the Department of Corrections (DOC) from transferring any more women prisoners to the New Jersey State Prison (NJSP), a men’s Supermax prison, for the duration of an ongoing legal battle over previous unlawful transfers. The court also granted the women’s request to pursue their claims as a class action. In addition, the court denied a motion by the DOC, brought on five separate legal grounds, to dismiss the women prisoners’ complaint, and also rejected the DOC’s motion to terminate the case.

“These rulings amount to a sweeping victory for women prisoners who have suffered grossly unfair and inhumane treatment at the hands of the Department of Corrections,” said Mie Lewis, lead American Civil Liberties Union counsel for the case. “We are delighted that after thoroughly analyzing the arguments on both sides, the court has vindicated the rights of women prisoners.”

The class action lawsuit, Jones v. Hayman, filed by the ACLU and the ACLU of New Jersey in December 2007, challenges the DOC’s transfer of a group of women prisoners to NJSP where women are denied basic movement in the prison, deprived of access to the prison law library and the prison school, barred from the prison’s main yard and denied access to basic hygiene. The lawsuit charges the women’s transfer and their oppressive conditions of confinement are unconstitutional and discriminatory based on their sex.

“We’re gratified that this is the first step to these women leaving conditions that no one should be forced to live in,” said Ed Barocas, Legal Director of the ACLU of New Jersey. “When the court issues its final ruling we expect to see a permanent stop to the arbitrary transfer of women to the men’s prison, an end to their inhumane conditions and the DOC penalized for its wrongdoing.”

In March, evidence emerged that James Drumm, Assistant Administrator of the New Jersey State Prison, offered women prisoners reductions in their disciplinary sentences in exchange for making false statements describing conditions as better than they were. After one prisoner told the ACLU about the offer, she was beaten by a prison guard, according to her sworn statement and those of three other women prisoners. In later statements to the court, women prisoners described a campaign of intimidation intended to punish and silence women who spoke out. Other sworn statements of women prisoners described bullying and intimidation carried out by the internal affairs unit of the DOC, the Special Investigations Division (SID).

On Tuesday, July 22, the DOC agreed to withdraw the statements obtained by James Drumm from the record and to provide the ACLU with further evidence concerning the alleged official misconduct. Previously, at a court hearing on April 11, 2008, corrections officials agreed to withdraw medical and psychiatric evidence that the ACLU charged had been collected in violation of court rules and ethical standards.

Attorneys on the case are Lewis and Lenora M. Lapidus from the ACLU Women’s Rights Project and Barocas from the ACLU of New Jersey.

The New Jersey Superior Court Order Granting Preliminary Injunction is available at:
www.aclu.org/womensrights/crimjustice/36110lgl20080721.html

The New Jersey Superior Court Order Granting Class Certification is available at:
www.aclu.org/womensrights/crimjustice/36114lgl20080721.html

The New Jersey Superior Court Order Denying Motion to Dismiss is available at:
www.aclu.org/womensrights/crimjustice/36115lgl20080721.html

More information on the case, including statements of women prisoners describing intimidation by New Jersey DOC internal affairs investigators, is available online at:
www.aclu.org/womensrights/nj_prison/index.html

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