A former senior corrections officer at the Edna Mahan Correctional Facility for Women has pleaded guilty in a case involving alleged sexual relationships with two inmates. 37-year-old Joel Mercado pleaded guilty to two counts of official misconduct last week. He was originally charged with both official misconduct and sexual assault.
Mercado has admitted to having sexual intercourse with two female inmates in the housing unit of the correctional facility in Union Township, between 2013 and 2015. He was also an academy instructor at the prison and taught new recruits that any sexual contact between inmates and staff is prohibited by New Jersey law.
Mercado faces up to 3 years in prison for these charges. He is also required to forfeit his employment and pension with the state of New Jersey. He was arrested in May 2017 as part of an ongoing investigation into sexual abuse of inmates by staff members.
Joel Mercado is just one of six Edna Mahan Correctional Facility staff members who has been accused of sexually abusing a total of eight inmates at the facility.
In September, former officers Brian Ambroise and Ronald Coleman were indicted on charges of official misconduct and sexual assault. Each was charged with five counts of second-degree official misconduct, two counts of second-degree conspiracy to commit sexual assault and two counts of pattern of official misconduct.
In July, former guard Jason Mays was sentenced to 16 years in state prison for sexual assault, sexual contact, and official misconduct.
In 2017, former senior corrections officer Thomas Seguine and former institutional trade instructor Joel Herscap each pleaded guilty to official misconduct and were sentenced to prison.
Several current and former inmates have filed lawsuits against the state Department of Corrections regarding these allegations of sexual abuse.
Attorney contributor Brian Kent is a former prosecutor who now represents survivors of sexual assault in civil cases. Here are some of Brian’s thoughts on the legal options available to those who have been sexually abused as inmates by correctional facility staff members:
Sadly, these allegations of abuse at Edna Mahan are not unique, as there have been reports of correctional facility staff abusing inmates all over the country. According to a report by the Washington Times, guards and staff members were the perpetrators in roughly half of all prison sexual assaults in 2011. The victims of these crimes deserve justice and the perpetrators must be held criminally responsible for their actions. Additionally, in many cases, these victims may have grounds for a lawsuit for sexual assault against the organization that runs the prison.
Are you or a loved one a survivor of correctional facility sexual assault? Our experienced sexual assault survivors attorneys want to help your family find justice. To learn more about your legal options, get in touch with us for a free consultation.