Acting state Corrections commissioner earns high praises during Judiciary Committee hearing
Gov. Phil Murphy’s choice to lead the state prison system is one step closer to being confirmed for the top job at the state Department of Corrections.
Acting Commissioner Victoria Kuhn took over 10 months ago following several scandals in the corrections system, including abuse at the state’s only prison for women. Kuhn won praise from lawmakers over how she handled the department.
“I am confident and committed to the closure of Edna Mahan [Correctional Facility for Women] and I assure you I will be responsible in doing so,” Kuhn said during a hearing on Thursday.
Kuhn vowed to strengthen reform efforts, and eventually close the prison.
“The reforms are a priority for me. I am confident as I sit here today that we are in a significantly better place at Edna than we ever have been,” she said.
Kuhn supervised changes at the prison after more than a dozen correctional police officers had charges filed against them. She had more than 350 state-of-the-art cameras installed, reconfigured investigations and made staffing changes throughout the prison system.
“This is all with a very clear goal - to establish a culture of dignity and safety that supports the population,” Kuhn said.
Kuhn is winning high praise from Democrats, Republicans and the correctional police officers union.
“You got an issue, you make a phone call, she picks up. Might not be the answer you like, but at least it's always answered,” said PBA 105 Union President William Sullivan.
Kuhn needs the OK of state lawmakers in the state Senate to get the job permanently. The unanimous vote she received in the Senate Judiciary Committee Thursday was a big step in that direction.
“Corrections is complicated - on so many different levels and on every given day,” Kuhn said.
If she's confirmed by the state Senate, Kuhn would be the first woman in state history to serve as corrections commissioner.
Senate Judiciary Chairman Brian Stack said the state currently has just over 11,000 inmates in custody. Kuhn said 70% of them are incarcerated for violent crimes.