Four male prison officers at a women's prison in New Jersey have been indicted over claims that they sexually abused eight inmates. Hunterdon County Prosecutor Anthony Kearns announced that the four suspects have been indicted on 26 charges relating to the Edna Mahan Correctional Facility for Women in Clinton, around 70 miles west of Newark.

Kearns told reporters on Monday 23 January that the alleged abuse took place over a two-year period and the victims were "particularly vulnerable".

The men were named as Jason Mays, 43, of Hillside, New Jersey; Ahnwar Dixon, 38, of East Orange, New Jersey; Brian Ambroise, 33, of Union, New Jersey; and Thomas Seguine, 34, of Phillipsburg, New Jersey.

The charges include official misconduct, patterns of official misconduct, sexual assault, criminal coercion and criminal sexual contact. The full charges can be read here.

"In these cases, the victims were particularly vulnerable as inmates," Kearns said, according to a press release. "The corrections officers had complete power over every aspect of their lives behind bars. We have in our society a system of punishing those who violate our laws.

"And when imprisonment is the punishment, it is our correction officers that must carry out the duty of ensuring the welfare, safety and security of the inmates."

According to nj.com, a fifth man, kitchen worker Joel Herscap, 55, of Alpha, New Jersey, has also been arrested for reportedly exchanging cigarettes with two female inmates in return for sexual favours.

Herscap was charged with two counts of second-degree official misconduct, two counts of second-degree sexual assault and one count of fourth-degree criminal sexual contact. Kearns said Herscap was recently convicted and sentenced to three years in jail on an official misconduct charge.

The Trentonian reported in October that there were roughly 80 more male workers than female employees at the prison. The prison has 662 inmates.

All four men have been released on bail, according to reports.