Edna Mahan would be the third prison to close in New Jersey in several years, and Mr. Murphy, a Democrat who is running for re-election, said the women would be relocated to a new prison or “other facilities.”
William Sullivan, the president of the Police Benevolent Association, Local 105, the union that represents the state’s 6,000 correction officers, said he was blindsided by the announcement. Mr. Sullivan said the decision appeared to be aimed at distracting from the problems laid out in the report, including pay disparity and guard recruitment challenges.
“I think it’s an overreach — more of a feel-good kind of maneuver rather than a fix-the-problem reaction,” Mr. Sullivan said.
Faith Haines, 42, who was convicted of aggravated manslaughter and has been serving time at Edna Mahan for 18 years, said she had mixed feelings about the pending closure.
“It’s like, ‘Here we go again,’” said Ms. Haines, who was among the women removed from her cell on Jan. 11. “There’s a lot of painful memories here.
“But where are we going?”
Nicole Porter, director of advocacy for the Sentencing Project, a national criminal justice reform group based in Washington, said the decision matched the goals of nationwide efforts focused on lowering the number of female prisoners nationwide and relocating those who are sentenced to prison to be closer to their families.
“There should be a priority to keep people close to home,” Ms. Porter said.
Any proposal to build a prison is likely to face fierce opposition, as has happened in Massachusetts and Texas, where proponents of reducing incarceration have fought against the construction of new lockups.