An inmate escaped from New Jersey’s infamous women’s prison over the weekend before being nabbed by cops hours later, authorities say.
The Hunterdon County Prosecutor’s Office said Sunday that Jessica Graham — a 40-year-old con serving a five-year sentence for criminal mischief — was reported missing from a minimum-security unit at the troubled Edna Mahan Correctional Facility for Women in Union Township west of Bridgewater.
Graham was discovered gone during a routine head count, state corrections officials told NJ.com. She was eligible to be housed in the minimum-security unit because she had no history of violence at the lockup, where she has been in custody since June, authorities said.
She was last seen near Exit 13 on Interstate 78 about a mile away, prosecutors said.
Graham was then captured hours later, on Sunday night, near a restaurant in Clinton and returned to the custody of correctional authorities, Clinton police tweeted.
She had been eligible for parole as soon as February before her escape, NJ.com reported.
The state Department of Corrections Web site says Graham is scheduled for release in September 2024, although it is unclear how her short-lived escape may affect that date.
Gov. Phil Murphy announced in June that he would close the state’s sole women’s prison after a series of sexual-abuse charges and violent raids involving guards. The closure of the rural Hunterdon County facility, which housed about 370 prisoners at the time, is expected to take years, Murphy said.
The lockup had already been under scrutiny over a federal report that found that inmates had been sexually abused for years. “Forced cell extractions” in January led to injured inmates and charges against 10 guards and employees.
Authorities charged Tyrell Harris-McLaughlin, a 28-year-old senior corrections officer at Edna Mahan, with raping a female inmate during a September attack. He faces up to 10 years in prison if convicted.