NJDOC announces next phase for construction of new women’s correctional facility in Chesterfield Township

The New Jersey Department of Corrections on Friday said it plans to open a new and modern women’s correctional facility in Chesterfield Township and is opening the solicitation process for design consultation that will be pivotal in providing architecture and engineering work.

The release of the scope of work signifies a major milestone in the creation of a new women’s correctional facility that is trauma-informed with a normative design, centralized services and ample space for programs and amenities.

“This moment marks a significant step in developing an enhanced, safe and secure facility that meets the needs and expectations of a modern correctional facility,” Commissioner Victoria Kuhn said. “The construction of a purpose-built correctional facility will provide normative conditions that are conducive to rehabilitation, reentry and improved safety and security for the incarcerated women, staff and the community.”

Gov. Phil Murphy announced the closure of Edna Mahan Correctional Facility in June 2021, with a promise to transform incarceration for women in New Jersey and relocate the population to a more central location with greater access to major roadways, all while providing an environment more conducive to rehabilitation.

The closure of EMCF is expected to save approximately $166 million in future capital projects and deferred maintenance costs that would have been otherwise necessary to keep the facility functional and ensure its long-term viability.

“With support from stakeholders and those close to corrections and incarcerated persons, the NJDOC has made monumental strides in improving the safety of, as well as services and culture for, incarcerated women,” Helena Tomé, assistant commissioner of the NJDOC’s Division of Women’s Services, said. “The newly proposed facility will help us to advance our mission by promoting a dignified, safe, secure, rehabilitative and gender-informed environment while also fostering community reintegration.”

The new, purpose-built correctional facility for women will be strategically located on existing NJDOC property in Chesterfield Township, Burlington County. It will be collocated with Garden State Correctional Facility, an active correctional facility and adjacent to the former Albert C. Wagner Youth Correctional Facility, which closed in Fiscal Year 2020.

The 33-acre property offers a more central location within the state and is near major roadways (including the New Jersey Turnpike) and resources. This location should allow for easier access to maximize family unification and visits, provide more significant staffing resources between multiple facilities, and enable greater connection to community resources.

In FY2024, $90 million was appropriated from the Debt Defeasance and Prevention Fund to begin the process of developing a new women’s facility. Over the past nine months, the state has established a collaborative and interagency working group to continue to advance the project through the planning and building stages. This working group, which includes critical state partners from the Division of Property Management and Construction in the Department of the Treasury, the Department of Environmental Protection, the Department of Community Affairs and the NJDOC, among others, is diligently working through the many phases of review and planning in preparation for construction.

“We are thrilled to see the NJDOC and the state of New Jersey reaffirm their commitment to rehabilitation and reentry, honoring the dedication of those who have helped to propel this movement forward,” Bonnie Kerness, program director of American Friends Service Committee Prison Watch, said. “The Edna Mahan board of trustees and the incarcerated persons we have worked with over the past several years are confident in the department’s valiant efforts. We anticipate these modern, normative settings will enable the incarcerated women to grow personally and build dignity and diligence in themselves in preparation for when they return to their communities.”