One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest by Michelle Tierney

   Forward By Christopher

In today’s guest written post you’re going to discover how one state is handling the issue of transgender inmates. It’s also about how the state legislature has passed laws and created policies that have created an unsafe atmosphere at the state’s women’s prison, both for the staff and for

prisoners. The author of the post is on her 26th year of incarceration and a model inmate. At her facility Edna Mahan Correctional Facility (EMCF) the state of NJ recently began introducing transgender inmates into the female population. With the National Prison Rape Elimination Act (PREA) as its guide, the NJ legislature has passed laws meant to assist transgender inmates. However, what is happening is that male inmates are gaming this well-meant effort and faking trans identity so that they will serve their time at the women’s prison.

This has created an increase in violence at the facility, brought on by the actions of the men who have been transferred there. Male prisons are far more violent than female facilities, and this is because men are mentally different from women.

This post is about an 11 January 2021 incident involving one of these “transgender” men. It’s about how security staff at the facility are no longer able to maintain control and order due to the acts of the legislature. It’s about how bad prisoners are able to continue their actions without consequence, and it’s about how female prisoners who’ve been victims of sexual abuse in their lives are now forced to live with men faking transgender identity who themselves may be abusers and rapists. The female prisoner who wrote this post did so to highlight how good staff and prisoners are being forced into impossible situations. It’s unique in its perspective for it argues on behalf of the staff at the facility as much as it does for good mannered prisoners.

In Ohio PREA is approached in a similar manner, but with a few key differences. At my facility they are actively asking the prisoners who claim ‘transgender’ identity if they would like to be moved to another facility for their safety. There is a concerted well-meant effort to cater to these prisoners, but as you will see in this post good intentions can lead to unintended consequences if they aren’t well thought out.


One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest

By Michelle Tierney

I have struggled with writing this because of the fact that I’m a convict and have never really been one to get involved with the what goes on here. I am incarcerated at New Jersey’s best kept secret Edna Mahan Correctional Facility for Women (the only female prison in the state). I have been here since October 2000 and will be released in 2028.

On January 11, 2021 there was an incident here where a correctional officer beat a transgender inmate (this same officer had been transferred from a male prison for having assaulted a staffer). Regarding the incident here there were 30 staff under investigation. Ten have been charged with falsifying reports. Five of those ten are supervisors. I need to make something clear. Prior to that happening there had been ongoing incidents of inmates in that unit (which is the Restricted Housing Unit for problematic inmates) throwing urine on the officers. Each time charges were written there were no consequences, not even restitution for the cleaning of an officer’s uniform. This was just about a daily event. Whether you’re a correctional officer or not, how much is a person supposed to tolerate before having a breaking point? I had mine and am here for it. At the end of the day we are all human. When a correctional officer puts on their uniform they are coming here to do a job that nowadays seems impossible.

In September of 2019 we had a new inmate enter the prison who is transgender. In the state of NJ they are allowing men who claim to identify as women transfer here from male prisons. They do not have to be on hormones, and they still have their fully functioning sporting equipment (bat and balls) attached. Some are coming here to get laid. It works for the women who’ve preyed on the correctional officers over the years. Now they have male inmates to hook up with.

By no means do I bash anyone for who they are or choose to be. Please don’t think that. What’s going on here since the arrival of the transgenders is that us biological women are being treated as second class citizens, and we have to walk on eggshells. If you are transgender you are catered to and get all that you want, especially those who are problematic. They are being moved into single cells because they have a penis and women with life sentences are being moved out of the cells and put into dorm living quarters. There is unequal treatment, and it’s not fair.

There are women here who have been molested, raped, and sexually abused and are now being forced to live amongst biological men who may be rapists themselves. The transgenders are allowed to order bras and boxers from source of sale, while us biologically born women are only allowed to get bras from commissary or housekeeping. Why boxers are needed is beyond me because if you are saying you identify as a female then wear panties like we have to. What’s even worse is the mentality of those coming here. The way men and women do time is so different. Men are more violent, and with that being said the transgenders are bringing in a wave of violence that has NEVER existed in all of my time here.

I want to go back to the January incident for a second. The transgender involved was one of the main urine throwers, and they taught that to the females housed there. That same transgender had even requested to go back to a male prison and was told to give it 60-90 days and request again. Mind you this same transgender was in the Restricted Housing Unit for assaulting two females. There’s this special transgender policy, and I was given a section of it that I will now share.


Page 7 – Section B. Part 4.6 reads:

An administrator or designee who receives an inmate at a facility consistent with the inmates gender identity may request an immediate review when significant adjustment issues emerge, or upon the inmate’s request to return to the originating gender facility. The administrator will make this request through the PAC.

Page 5 – Section 3 Part A reads:

…if the PAC has a substantiated, credible and nondiscriminatory basis for believing that an inmate is not sincere in their assertion of their gender identity and is asserting it for an improper purpose, the PAC may ask further questions to better understand the inmate’s identity and offer the inmate with a fair opportunity to present additional information.

I’m confused as to why they weren’t just shipped back to the male prison upon request because of them constantly throwing urine and being so problematic. Had they been shipped back out there’s a good chance what took place in January wouldn’t have happened.

The newest transgender arrivals have been starting fires in their cells. One taught another, and they then taught a female who attempted this and burned her hands. This is what’s going on here. PURE INSANITY. On 9/10/21 one of the other transgenders assaulted a Sgt. with ten or more blows to the head. Totally an unprovoked attack. I didn’t see that make the headline news with the media. The media is only bringing to light the officer’s errors but not the inmate’s. There were three female officers there who did nothing physically to stop the unprovoked attack. I kind of understand why they didn’t react. This is a 6′ 240lb biologically male inmate beating the Sgt. Who’s to say what would have happened to them? What if they reacted and ended up being out of a job pending investigation like the ones from the January incident were? All those officers have yet to come back to work.

This is all happening because legislatures and assembly people have ex-cons reaching out to them saying how horrible it is here at E.M.C.F, and it isn’t. These people in power have passed bills that enable bad behavior. The troublemakers do whatever they want and get pacified and rewarded. All inmates who enter this prison are given a handbook of the rules and regulations of the facility. In this handbook it clearly states the following:


A correctional officer serves as the principal agent of the department of corrections and the state of New Jersey to ensure that correctional facilities are operated in a safe, orderly and structured fashion. A correction officer is a security agent, a manger of people and a role model for inmates. Part of a correction officer’s job is his or her responsibility to help an offender adapt to the environment inside a correctional facility and to act in a manner that aids an inmate’s rehabilitation.”

With that being said and with what legislatures and assembly people have brought to our governor to sign off on, it’s impossible for these officers to do their job. Real criminals thrive in this situation. Seriously, what are the officers going to do? There’s no safety and security for the inmates or the officers. What’s the point in these officers even being here? All they can do is answer phones and unlock doors. When they try to correct us for breaking the rules they get in trouble or are told to let us get away with it and we get rewarded.

Legislation is creating a breeding place for violence that again has never existed here. The reality of it all is that there’s no structure anymore. There’s nothing that makes a person not want to come back. They’ve made it so easy for us to do our time. We are getting our 3 hots and a cot. No bills to worry about, we can disrespect the officers and do whatever we choose, get put into a cell with our girlfriend and get to play house together.

It was so different years ago. If an officer said take out the trash, the trash was taken out and if not a charge was written for refusing a direct order. Now this new generation of entitled inmates will say, “No, it’s not my job”. No consequences. The way I see it, if the small rules don’t get enforced then a door is being opened for the bigger ones to be broken.

There was a time when inmates who were disciplinary problems would go to Ad.–Seg. (now called RHU for “restricted Housing Unit) and the only thing they were permitted to have was their clothing and TV. Now they get to keep everything. So where is the lesson learned? Some inmates even prefer doing their time in RHU so they intentionally cause problems so to go back. What makes me laugh is that legislatures have had bills passed so that inmates don’t do more than 30 days in RHU, claiming it takes a toll on one’s mental health. Does it really? I mean these are prisoners who know that when they become that much of a problem they will go to that unit, yet they continue to keep going back.

I grew up in an abusive household and have been in abusive relationships with my last one being the one that brought me to prison. I share that because the way I am seeing things with correctional officers not being able to do their jobs. When they do they get reprimanded because of legislatures’ fighting and getting prisoner’s more opportunities to enable bad behavior. It makes me think that the officers are being abused by the very people they work for. It’s a battered person’s syndrome. The people who want to boost their morale are the very same who are bringing them down with their poorly considered policies.

As a convict I shouldn’t even complain about rules not being enforced or what’s going on with the officers here, but with there not being much of safety and security legislatures are creating a monster that just may kill someone. Is that what needs to happen in order for them to see the error of their ways? The way I’m seing it, if a correctional officer was killed on the job it probably wouldn’t matter. It probably wouldn’t even matter if a female prisoner died. But god forbid something happens to a transgender. Something needs to change.

In April 2021 the Moss group came here and held focus groups with department heads, custody and inmates. I was asked if I wanted to participate. I wasn’t going to but felt my voice needed to be heard in regards to all that has happened in the past few months with custody not being allowed to do their actual job. My opinion was when the questions about staff were asked, they were looking for answers that made it seem like the staff do not do their job. I cannot support that kind of agenda. Custody isn’t the issue; the inmates are. Period. The DOJ is supposed to be coming here to oversee how things are being run. I can only hope they will bring change so that the officers here can do what they were trained for.

I end this with wanting to sarcastically thank legislatures for doing all thatthey have done for us prisoners because of you the patients are now running the asylum.

Michelle Tierney (EMCF) (NJ)

5 thoughts on “One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest by Michelle Tierney

  1. Tammy

    I’ve worked with transgender people and even out here there is discrimination. Your story speaks of something I never imagined could happen. There’s a lot of good inmates and the few who are taking advantage of a well meant policy should be punished. There are many good correctional officers, but it’s always the same there. You only hear about the bad ones. Michelle’s defense of the staff is commendable. Her frustration is understandable. I hope someone takes note.

  2. Matt Ware

    This is incredible what’s happening at EMCF. I googled this incident and watched the video of the assault “Five More Charged in Edna Maham Women’s Prison, Including Top Administrator On Duty” It’s shocking that women are treated that way. At the article “31 Guards Suspended At Women’s Prison Plagued By Sexual Violence”–horrifying. It’s no wonder the NJ governor is closing the prison “Murphy Closing Women’s Prison After Years Of Inmate Abuse” Everyone should read these articles. Speechless that this happens on our society.

  3. Frivolous Squirrel

    As long as there are loopholes in the system it’ll be gamed. The guards are the most shocking part of this story. I read about this on the web and closing the prison doesn’t seem fair to the women who I’m assuming will get transferred elsewhere in the state? The prison isn’t the problem those guards in the incident are.

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