8 NJ Prison Guards Face Felonies In beatings of transgender inmate

Edna Mahan Correctional Facility
Eight correctional police officers have been charged in connection to the beating of prisoners at New Jersey's women's prison. Clockwise from top left: Officers Jose Irizarry, Courey James, Gustavo Sarmiento Jr., Tara Wallace, Luis Garcia, and Sergeants Amir Bethea, Anthony Valvano and Matthew Faschan.

Attorney General Gurbir S. Grewal announced criminal charges against eight suspended New Jersey correctional police officers for their alleged roles in an incident in which inmates were assaulted and seriously injured at the Edna Mahan Correctional Facility for Women.

Transgender woman Rae Rollins was incarcerated at Edna Mahan Correctional Facility for Women on January 11th and 12th when the attacks occurred. Her mother, Trimeka Rollins said that her daughter had hoped she was finally in a place she could safely serve her sentence after being continuously transferred about from one violent men’s prison to another.

Rea Rollins has filed a lawsuit alleging that she was beaten by a group of officers and other officers who later in retribution broke her knee, her mother Trimeka Rollins told Tulsa World. Her daughter’s knee was so badly damaged that she’s now using a wheelchair, Rollins said.

According to Ms. Rollins, who has been communicating daily with her daughter through a prison email system, at least three women were seriously injured in the melee, which was first reported by NJ.com. Two women were taken for treatment outside the prison, she said, but her daughter, who was convicted of robbery and is serving a five-year sentence, was treated by an on-site nurse.

“I’m just afraid that the ones who are left are going to retaliate,” Ms. Rollins said about the remaining guards. “I am definitely afraid for her life.”

Roderick Keith Johnson founder of the Dallas-based Black Lives Matters prison rights group National Network of Community Advocacy said:

“These acts of injustice against transgender people during their incarceration has again risen to the level of crimes against humanity. My own case of abuse chronicled as the worst case of prisoner abuse in US history is dwarfed by the senseless violence that occurs in 2021 against these individuals,” said Johnson.

“The National Network of Community Advocacy must stand together with them and calling for an end to crimes against humanity against incarcerated individuals in the United States and address the care and support they require upon release,” said Johnson.

In April of 2020, a Federal Justice Department investigation of the EDNA women’s correctional facility found that inmate’s rights as guaranteed by the 8th amendment had been and routinely and systemically violated.

Specifically, the United States provides notice that the State of New Jersey, through the New Jersey Department of Corrections (NJDOC), fails to keep prisoners at Edna Mahan safe from sexual abuse by staff. From October 2016 to November 2019, five Edna Mahan correction officers and one civilian employee were convicted or pled guilty to charges related to sexual abuse of more than 10 women under their watch. For example:

  • In May 2018, an Edna Mahan correction officer was found guilty of five counts of
    sexually abusing prisoners. According to the sentencing judge, the “pervasive
    culture” at Edna Mahan allowed this correction officer to abuse his “position of
    authority to indulge in [his] own sexual stimulation.”
  • In July 2018, another Edna Mahan correction officer pled guilty to three counts of
    official misconduct after he admitted sexually abusing three separate prisoners.
  • In January 2019, another correction officer pled guilty to official misconduct charges
    after admitting that he repeatedly sexually abused two Edna Mahan prisoners over a
    period of several years. In sentencing him, the New Jersey court concluded that the
    officer had “sexually assaulted a vulnerable population.”

Second-degree charges carry a sentence of five to 10 years in prison and a fine of up to $150,000. The second-degree official misconduct charge carries a mandatory minimum sentence of five years in prison without the possibility of parole. The second-degree aggravated assault charge carries a mandatory term of parole ineligibility equal to 85 percent of the sentence imposed.

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Kelli, Busey is managing editor at Planet Transgender