TRENTON, N.J. – Assemblywoman Jean Stanfield introduced articles of impeachment against Department of Corrections Commissioner Marcus Hicks today with the backing of prime sponsors Democratic Assemblywoman Valerie Vainieri Huttle and Republican Assemblywoman Nancy Munoz.
“I’m heartened to be joined by these strong leaders, who I know will not stop advocating for the women at our correctional facilities until they are safe under new leadership and comprehensive reforms,” Stanfield said.
“Assemblywoman Vainieri Huttle and I may come from different parties, but we are aligned in our belief Commissioner Hicks must be held accountable. Valerie has been at the forefront of this and will not be silenced. This is a bipartisan issue, and by working together, we will make sure rape and abuse at the hands of prison guards ends at Edna Mahan,” she continued.
The articles of impeachment (AR220) state Commissioner Hicks failed to take reasonable measures to protect inmates from sexual abuse, considered cruel and unusual punishment under the Eighth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, and that he is responsible for violating the inmates’ civil rights and the public’s trust, among other offenses.
A U.S. Department of Justice report detailed years of sexual and physical assault by guards at the facility leading to criminal convictions. Since the report was released in April, the situation has only gotten worse. Thirty-one guards were suspended last month after an incident involving a woman getting handcuffed in a cell and severely beaten.
“As a former Burlington County Sheriff, I have always looked out for the most vulnerable among us. By letting this situation go on for years and keeping Commissioner Hicks in his leadership role, our Governor has not. We can’t wait for him to wake up on this issue. The legislature must act,” Stanfield said.
“Prisoners are still people. We as a State must take a leadership role in ensuring dignity and safety for everyone, including those who are incarcerated. We have called for the resignation of Commissioner Hicks and this resolution aims to bring accountability to the DOC. Regardless, reforms are still sorely needed to address the systemic abuse within our system,” Huttle said.
“Governor Murphy and Commissioner Hicks have been given ample opportunities to make the necessary reforms to protect the women at the prison. My colleagues and I will not tolerate one more transgression,” Munoz said. “The Legislature is proceeding with the impeachment of Commissioner Hicks, because we refuse to allow the women’s cries for help to fall on deaf ears any longer. We must remove the man at the top who has shunned his responsibilities for far too long.”
The state constitution starts the impeachment process in the state Assembly, which has the sole power of impeachment by a majority vote of all members. The proceedings move to the Senate, which is to hold a trial overseen by the chief justice of the state Supreme Court. A two-thirds vote of all the members of the Senate is required to remove the commissioner from office.
The Department of Justice report on the atrocities at Edna Mahan Correctional Facility was released in April. Following the report, the state legislature held hearings, which Commissioner Hicks failed to show up for. During one of the hearings, a woman testified that a guard allegedly refused to give her toilet paper without an exchange of sex.