Tatianna Harrison, a 22-year-old woman incarcerated at Edna Mahan Correctional Facility for Women, has filed a lawsuit over the brutal assault and injuries she suffered during the January 11, 2021 raid at the New Jersey women’s correctional facility. The lawsuit was filed by her attorneys at the civil rights firm Kaufman Lieb Lebowitz & Frick LLP.

The Jan. 11 raid was the impetus for New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy’s decision to permanently close the facility—a move announced last month after the Governor’s office released an investigative report detailing the violent cell extractions perpetuated against Harrison and five other women.

Murphy said he was “deeply disturbed and disgusted by the attack,” which also led to the resignation of former New Jersey Department of Corrections (NJDOC) Commissioner Marcus Hicks and former NJDOC Ombudsman Dan DiBenedetti.

Ten corrections officers involved in the raid—nine of whom are named Defendants in Harrison’s lawsuit—have also been criminally charged by the New Jersey Office of the Attorney General, with charges ranging from assault to tampering with public records and official misconduct.

Harrison’s lawsuit alleges that “approximately six to ten officers stormed [her] cell, threw her to the ground, and proceeded to repeatedly punch, kick, and stomp on her head and body.” It adds that, “[k]nowing Ms. Harrison had a serious pre-existing spinal injury . . . officers intentionally targeted her back while on officer knelt on her spine.” Ms. Harrison was handcuffed throughout the entire assault.

In addition to the beating, the complaint alleges that “Officers also ripped Ms. Harrison’s shirt open and pulled her pants and underwear down, exposing her groin and buttocks.”

Harrison further asserts that in the wake of the assault, prison officials denied her medical care and fabricated reports falsely stating she suffered no injuries. In reality, the Complaint alleges, Ms. Harrison suffered a concussion, vision impairment, and other significant injuries.

“The abuse that Ms. Harrison and other incarcerated women suffered that night is truly sickening,” said Alison Frick, an attorney at Kaufman Lieb Lebowitz & Frick LLP who represents Harrison. “The attack was not an isolated incident. It was the inevitable result of an unchecked system of institutional abuse and violence that has raged at the prison for decades. The Governor and the Office of the Attorney General have already started the journey toward accountability, and this lawsuit is another important step in that direction.”

Indeed, the Governor’s investigative report already concluded that the raid against Harrison was unjustified, noting that rather than “an attempt to quell a legitimate emergency, the Cell Extractions were a misguided effort by frustrated employees to restore order and mete out discipline.”

Harrison’s lawsuit alleges that the NJDOC and corrections officials and officers violated the New Jersey Constitution and New Jersey Civil Rights Act, as well as the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination.

“The force used against Ms. Harrison is inexcusable,” said Adam Strychaluk, another attorney at Kaufman Lieb Lebowitz & Frick LLP who represents Ms. Harrison. “She was not engaging in behavior that could justify any use of force, let alone a severe beating by a half-dozen officers. She was resting in her bed at night, preparing to sleep, when officers stormed her cell, handcuffed her, and beat her to the point she could no longer stand.”

“No one incarcerated in the State of New Jersey should ever suffer what Ms. Harrison suffered that night. We are hopeful that this lawsuit helps make that true,” Ms. Frick said.

The NJDOC does not comment on pending litigation.

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