Embattled New Jersey corrections commissioner to resign

Full Screen
1 / 3

Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.

High fences surround buildings on the grounds of the Edna Mahan Correctional Facility for Women in Clinton, N.J., Tuesday, June 8, 2021. New Jersey's embattled corrections commissioner announced his resignation Tuesday, a day after Gov. Phil Murphy said the state would shutter its long-troubled and only women's prison. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)

TRENTON, N.J. – New Jersey's embattled corrections commissioner announced his resignation Tuesday, a day after Gov. Phil Murphy said the state would shutter its long-troubled and only women’s prison.

Marcus Hicks had faced sharp criticism in recent months from many lawmakers who called for his dismissal, citing his overall job performance and his handling of problems at the Edna Mahan Correctional Facility for Women in Clinton. Ten guards face criminal charges brought by the state attorney general stemming from what he said was a violent attack on women at the prison in January.

Hicks will leave office June 18, but defended his tenure, noting that he added body cameras at Edna Mahan and hired more women on staff, plus other changes. He also retained a consultant to help turn around the prison.

“It has been an honor and a privilege to have served the Murphy Administration and the people of New Jersey as commissioner of the New Jersey Department of Corrections for the past three years,” Hicks said in a statement issued Tuesday. “I’m proud of the work we’ve done and wish our staff and individuals under our care well as the department continues its mission to ensure safety and promote rehabilitation.”

Assembly members Angela McKnight, Gabriela Mosquera, and Lisa Swain, who are also members of the Women and Children's Committee said in a joint statement that Hicks' resignation was “necessary” and that now new leadership can work on preventing more “human rights violations.”

William Sullivan, the head of the labor union representing prison guards, said in a statement the union is committed to working with the new administration to “enhance credibility, effectiveness, and operations.”

Murphy, a Democrat, announced his intention to close Edna Mahan on Monday, after reviewing a new 75-page investigative report he commissioned on the January attack by mostly male prison guards on female inmates.

Among the new details in the document: some female inmates were forced to strip and submit to searches in front of male guards.