Violation of Incarcerated Women’s Civil Rights in New Jersey

Document Date: July 25, 2008

Kathleen Jones (left)
“I was subjected to a medical exam in the dark, dirty examination room in the woman’s unit, because I knew that if I refused to be examined in that room I would not receive care.”

Sylvia Flynn
“You don’t know whether it’s night or day. I used to sit at the window and watch the stars and the moon. Now, it’s like I’m in a cave.”

In March 2007 the New Jersey Department of Corrections transferred approximately 40 women from the Edna Mahan Correctional Facility for Women, New Jersey’s sole women’s prison, to the New Jersey State Prison. NJSP is a maximum-security men’s prison holding approximately 1,800 male prisoners.


As a result of this transfer, the women were stripped of programming and services appropriate to their needs and were subjected to lock-down conditions virtually identical to those in disciplinary segregation. They were subjected to conditions far more oppressive and restrictive than those of male prisoners, including confinement in their cells for up to 22 hours a day, denial of basic movement within the prison, placement in a pen when given time outdoors, and denial of access to the prison law library, the prison school, and basic hygiene items. Under these conditions, the women’s mental and physical health rapidly deteriorated, fights broke out, and suicide attempts occurred.

On December 12, 2007 the ACLU filed a civil rights lawsuit against the NJ Department of Corrections.

Read the Complaint >>

On December 12, 2007, in conjunction with the lawsuit filing, a rally was held outside of the New Jersey State Prison. Protesters from all over the tri-state area came and rallied in support of these women behind bars.

See pictures from this event >>

At the December 12 rally, former prisoner and representative of the Million Women March of Essex County, Munirah Bowmani, was brought to tears while speaking to the crowd in front of the New Jersey State Prison.

> News: Corrections Department Returns Women Held In New Jersey Men’s Prison To Women’s Prison After ACLU Lawsuit (9/4/2008)
> News: Court Bars Corrections Department From Sending More Women To Inhumane Conditions In NJ Men’s Prison (7/24/2008)
> News: ACLU Seeks Sanctions Against New Jersey DOC For Witness Tampering And Retaliation (03/26/2008)
> News: ACLU Files Lawsuit on Behalf of Women Prisoners Confined in Men’s Prison (12/12/2007)

> Jones v. Hayman – Court Order Granting Preliminary Injunction (7/21/2008)
> Jones v. Hayman – Court Order Granting Class Certification (7/21/2008)
> Jones v. Hayman – Court Order Denying Motion to Dismiss (7/21/2008)
> Jones v. Hayman – Certification of Kathleen Jones (4/10/2008)
> Jones v. Hayman – Certification of Helen Ewell (4/10/2008)
> Jones v. Hayman – Motion for Sanctions (3/26/2008)
> Jones v. Hayman – Complaint (12/12/2007)

> City of Elizabeth City Council Resolution Regarding Treatment of Female Prisoners at New Jersey State Prison (02/06/2008)
> City of Newark City Council Resolution Regarding Treatment of Female Prisoners at New Jersey State Prison (02/06/2008)

> Read one woman prisoner’s personal account of the transfer
> Facts about the over-incarceration of women in the U.S.
> Read more about the ACLU’s work on behalf of women and girls in prison

Every month, you'll receive regular roundups of the most important civil rights and civil liberties developments. Remember: a well-informed citizenry is the best defense against tyranny.