To: Attorney General, American Civil Liberties Union, New Jersey Department of Corrections, Governors Office, Edna Mahan Correctional Facility
From: Demi Minor 494475E
Date: January 28, 2022
Please accept this letter with regards to the above mentioned abuse taking place at Edna Mahan Correctional Facility. Prior to writing this letter, I tried repeatedly to address this matter with my administration and others within Central Office. I have attached responses that I have received from the current administration. I have also made reference to these responses within this letter. Please take notice that I have suffered retaliation for speaking up. My mail has been withheld, and my legal mail has been coming months late and, at times, opened. This is the price you pay for reporting sex abuse. They say that I have no single cell restriction (Attachment 1a), yet I am old via other memos (and the housing practices themselves) that I must remain in a cell alone. The Special Investigation Division (SID) has stated that I must speak with administration and classification, and I have done just that (Attachment 2 & 13).
A. Administration Created a Policy That Separates Trans Women From Other Women
In November of 2020, former Administrator St. Paul told me, “You guys need to understand that y’all are different” and “I don’t want y’all hurting or raping none of the women here.” Following this he and Ms. Stem issued a memo (Attachment 1); the memo stated that all transgender female inmates would be assigned to single cell housing. This is the directive of the complex administrator. During this time I was being propositioned by another transgender inmate within my housing unit and sexually harassed by other women on my unit. I reported said harassment to SID and asked to be moved due to harassment. I was told that such concern was not a SID matter and told to speak with the administration regarding such concern (Attachment 2). Due to the memo that was written by Mr. St. Paul, who has been criminally charged for violent beating that took place at EMCF, I have been denied equal housing or even the opportunity to be heard with regards to my concerns regarding safety and housing within EMCF. This discriminatory housing practice has been upheld by current Administrator Stem and others.
B. Trans Women Are Not Allowed to Be Housed in Drug Treatment Program
In addition to this memo, Mr. St. Paul stated via this written memo that if I was approved for the drug treatment program, I would not be permitted to be housed in the program and instead would have to walk to the program each day. This is when I knew administration at EMCF was not willing to see me as a woman. The fact that I would have to walk to the Hillcrest drug program and would not be able to be housed as other inmates is a blatant example of how, in this place, administration is not willing to provide me or other transgender women with equal treatment. Take notice of this memo (Attachment 1) only applies to transgender female inmates. This is because EMCF houses by genitalia and the sex of the inmate at birth. It should be noted that I was approved by the Director of SUDU to get treatment. The director also said that my assessment supported my need. In another inquiry she explained that the housing was being addressed with Central Offices (Attachment 10a & 10b). This was confusing given the fact that grievance number 21028610 (Attachment 5) cited that such housing requests are up to the facility and not Central Offices. See also grievance 21012586 (Attachment 11).
C. Despite Having a Substantiated PREA Complaint, Retaliation Still Occurs
In June of 2021, after being approved to volunteer within the EMCF law library, a staff member, who was the Supervisor of Education at EMCF, began calling me a man and saying that she did not want me working within the law library. To make matters worse, the same inmates who I reported in grievance 20037158 (Attachment 2) for sexual harassment were working under this staff member. Subsequently this staff member was investigated and found guilty of said sexual abuse (Attachment 2). Each day she would come into my housing unit, harassing me and misgendering me despite my complaint. The administration never even considered moving me to another housing unit where I would not have had contact with this staff member. Instead they left me within my same unit knowing that this staff member was able to abuse me. Following this report of sex abuse that was substantiated by prison investigators, retaliation began to occur. Whereas this staff member was permitted to alter my volunteer schedule and created a hostile environment for me, I have reported this, and even seven months later, EMCF administration has done very little to correct the harms.
D. Retaliation for Reporting Sex Abuse
The Assistant Ombudsman has also tried to get answers about the PREA retaliation, and she has been provided responses from EMCF administration that are often vague or flat-out false. The fact remains that staff tried hard to stop me from working in the law library, and they tried hard to silence me. EMCF law library remains with two inmates working within it, and despite the lies that have been said, no training course for inmates who wish to become paralegals has been held here for nearly a decade. Hence many women here are provided with substandard legal access. I have documented this and attempted to speak about it, only to face adverse actions from others. I was advised, “They don’t want you in the law library helping other women speak up, and Assistant Commissioner Sessomes is trying to do everything in her power to make sure you never work as a paralegal by not holding the course here.” This statement was made to me after I asked staff to stop trying to prevent me from becoming a paralegal and after the Ombudsman Office discovered that Ms. Thatcher was misinforming Central Office staff about how many inmates worked within the law library.
E. Despite Safety Concerns, No Housing Changes Are Allowed for Transgender Women
Despite numerous safety issues, my facility and staff from Central Offices (Attachment 5) have told me that “housing changes will not be made.” At times, the responses are confusing. Sometimes the staff will say that the housing issues are under review by Central Offices, and then other times they will say that Central Offices are not responsible for such housing concerns. At one point, I was told by the Assistant Commissioner that I would receive a response regarding my housing within thirty days. This was told to me in June of 2021 (Attachment 6, 6a, 7 & 8). Subsequently, I was never answered back regarding my housing, and instead, in subsequent grievances, I was told that I would not be moved (Attachment 9). The only official document that I have is the memo that was authored by Mr. St. Paul. Please note that during this time, Ms. Stem was also the Associate Administrator. She is now Administrator and has also supported this policy.
F. Dismissing Safety Concerns As Manipulation Tactics
Many of the staff, including administration, believe that trans women are men who have manipulated the system to come to a women’s prison. Every time a housing request comes up to administration, they believe that inmates are only trying to manipulate. They have even threatened to give me disciplinary charges for bringing this matter up (Attachment 4). At this point, it’s clear that the administration is housing inmates based off of their sex at birth and gender identity (Attachment 4) rather than by their behavior or other nondiscriminatory factors. Truthfully, I fear what lies ahead. The administration would rather someone get hurt or something to happen before they intervene. That is the history and culture of EMCF Administration. I have explained my safety concerns, and each time, I am told that I will not be moved (Attachment 5). I also explained how the practice of housing trans women only in these two units reveals our gender identity (Attachment 12). I have also reached out to Classification who again stated that Administration stated that my housing is appropriate (Attachment 13). Finally, I have also reported that another inmate who I have a keep separate order against continues to harass me and comes into my housing unit threatening me. Administration has still said that they have “attempted to keep us separate,” yet they refuse to make a housing change so that we do not cross paths each day (Attachment 14).
Ms. Demi Minor, Advocate