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What Murphy said about 2 women at N.J. prison getting pregnant after consensual sex between inmates logo 4/19/2022 Brent Johnson,
The Edna Mahan Correctional Facility in Clinton — New Jersey's only women's prison. © Illustration w/ The Edna Mahan Correctional Facility in Clinton — New Jersey's only women's prison.

After two women incarcerated at New Jersey’s only female prison became pregnant following sex with a transgender prisoner, Gov. Phil Murphy said Monday that troubles with properly segregating prisoners at Edna Mahan Correctional Facility is “among the many reasons” he has ordered the facility to close.

”Part of the reason to close it — and there are many, sadly — is the inability to segregate populations based on incidences or behaviors,” Murphy said during an unrelated public event in Ewing when asked to comment. “And that’s on a long list of reasons why it has to be closed and that’s in process.”

The Clinton prison has faced intense scrutiny in recent years related to staff members sexually abusing and exploiting prisoners.

Murphy announced last year the state plans to close the prison after officials learned that corrections officers had violently extracted women from their cells and brutalized them n the middle of the night.

The incident, detailed in NJ Advance Media reports, led to criminal charges against 15 officers and forced state Department of Corrections Commissioner Marcus Hicks to resign.

It is unclear when the prison will close. An independent monitor continues to oversee the facility in the meantime.

The facility was under renewed attention last week when NJ Advance Media reported about the pregnancies.

MORE: Two women at N.J. prison are pregnant after consensual sex between inmates, DOC says

It appears the two women prisoners became pregnant from “consensual sexual relationships with another incarcerated person,” said Dan Sperrazza, the DOC’s external affairs executive director.

Sperrazza did not identify the inmates in question, but Edna Mahan houses 27 prisoners who identify as transgender.

He said the investigation is ongoing.

“While DOC cannot comment on any specific disciplinary or housing decisions that may be considered in light of these events, the Department always reserves all options to ensure the health and safety of the individuals in its custody,” Sperrazza said.

A settlement agreement with the American Civil Liberties Union of New Jersey last year declared the state’s prison system must house transgender prisoners in line with their gender identity.

The settlement stemmed from a lawsuit by a transgender woman who was sent to a men’s prison, where she alleged she received inadequate medical care and was abused by male inmates and staff.

Advocates hailed the agreement as necessary reform that moved New Jersey to the forefront of trans rights, along with states like California and Massachusetts.

The majority of transgender inmates in the U.S. are housed in prisons according to their gender assigned at birth and are often subjected to violence and harassment, according to an NBC News investigation published in 2020.

Jeanne LoCicero, legal director of the ACLU’s New Jersey chapter, said the current policy “reflects best practices to ensure the health, dignity, and safety of people in (DOC) custody.”

Last year, two Edna Mahan prisoners filed a class-action lawsuit seeking to immediately remove “any and all male pre-operative transgender inmates,” alleging that some had harassed them and engaged in sexual contact with other women.

In an affidavit filed in support of the lawsuit, one transgender prisoner who had gender-conforming surgery before she was incarcerated said the DOC’s current policy is “very questionable.”

“I believe it is highly inappropriate for the NJDOC to place pre-operative male-to-female allegedly transgender inmates in a women’s prison,” said the woman, who has been locked up for more than 20 years.

Under the new policy, when placing a transgender prisoner in a facility, the DOC should consider “all aspects of an inmate’s social and medical transition,” including behavioral history, institutional adjustment, overall demeanor, likely interactions with others, and feelings of safety.

Like with any prisoner, the policy also states that the DOC must consider whether an individual’s placement would present management or security problems in a facility. The placement is reassessed twice a year.

If the committee tasked with housing transgender prisoners has a “substantiated, credible, and non-discriminatory basis” to believe that someone is not sincere, it can ask further questions and allow the person to provide more information before they decide, according to the policy.

The settlement agreement mandated the DOC keep the policy in place for at least one year before it can reassess its effectiveness. It is unclear how this will affect it moving forward.

NJ Advance Media staff writer Matt Arco contributed to this report.

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Brent Johnson may be reached at Follow him at @johnsb01.

Joe Atmonavage may be reached at

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