Fourteen guards at New Jersey’s only prison for women were indicted Tuesday in connection with a violent 2021 midnight raid that left two women with serious injuries.
The officers charged include a former top supervisor at the prison, Edna Mahan Correctional Facility, a troubled institution the Justice Department found two years ago was plagued by sexual violence.
Gov. Philip D. Murphy announced last year that he planned to close the prison and relocate women to smaller lockups, an indication that the problems highlighted first by federal inspectors investigating years of sexual abuse at the prison, and later by state officials looking into the raid, were beyond repair.
The indictments, handed up Tuesday by a state grand jury, stem from the Jan. 11, 2021, raid, in which correction officers in riot gear entered several cells to forcibly remove women, some of whom were suspected of throwing feces and urine at guards, according to the New Jersey attorney general’s office.
One woman, pinned to the wall of her cell, was punched 28 times by a guard as she tried to shield her face, officials said. She wound up with a concussion.
Officers fractured the skull of another woman who had complied with orders to let herself be handcuffed, and they left boot imprints on her body, prosecutors said.
The indictment accuses the officers of planning, supervising, participating in — or failing to stop — the so-called forced cell extractions, which were carried out “with the purpose of punishing, intimidating or terrorizing one or more inmates.”
Forced extractions may occur only after detainees refuse orders to be placed in handcuffs or to leave their cells on their own, or if they pose an immediate risk to themselves or others, according to state policy.
But the indicted officers planned to go into the cells and use force “regardless of whether any resistance was encountered,” the attorney general’s office said in a statement.
All of those charged had been suspended soon after the incident. Most had already been arrested and charged with the crimes detailed Tuesday by the grand jury.
Lawyers for the officers could not immediately be reached for comment.
William Sullivan, president of the union that represents state correctional officers, said he would have no comment about the officers, who were accused of crimes including official misconduct, aggravated assault and lying on reports filed after the incident.
But Mr. Sullivan defended officers who were still working at the embattled prison, which houses roughly 300 women, as “well trained and hard-working.”
“They have come under a lot of scrutiny and still come to work day in and day out — many working 16 hours a day mandatory overtime,” he said.
After the raid, much of which was captured on video, the state suspended 34 prison staff members and hired a former state comptroller, Matthew Boxer, to conduct an independent inquiry. Mr. Murphy’s announcement that the prison would be closed came on the same day that Mr. Boxer issued a damning 73-page report that offered a portrait of a facility beset by administrative chaos.
The next day, Mr. Murphy’s corrections commissioner, Marcus O. Hicks, resigned from the post he had held for three years, bowing to the persistent demands of lawmakers who had called for his termination.
Mr. Murphy had no immediate comment on Tuesday about the indictments.