"No other state was taking these 'drastic' steps to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 in jails." - Gov. Murphy
TRENTON, NJ – New Jersey officials are also taking unprecedented action to try to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 to in-state correctional facilities. As many as 1,000 low-level offenders will be released from jails starting Tuesday after Chief Justice Stuart Rabner signed an order Sunday authorizing the release of offenders serving certain types of sentences in county jails.
The Morris County Correctional Facility began a staggered release of 28 non-violent offenders, today, Tuesday March 24. According to Morris County Sherrif James Gannon, "a total of 17 Morris County inmates and 11 Sussex County inmates who were held in the Morris County Correctional Facility under a shared services agreement are expected to be released throughout the day.
All the released inmates had their temperatures taken and were asked a series of questions about their health, said Correctional Facility warden Christopher Klein.
“We are living in an extraordinary period of time as the courts have recognized. The release of inmates, pursuant to court order from the Morris County Correctional Facility, is being conducted in a smooth and orderly manner, with assurances that all being released have an address to go to, transportation to that address, and are not exhibiting signs of illness,” Sheriff Gannon said. “With the safety of the community paramount, the inmates being released by court order were carefully selected and not considered a danger to the public,”
New Jersey State Attorney General Gurbir Grewal said that the order applies to inmates who are in jail for probation violations, as well as to those with municipal court convictions, such as disorderly conduct. The order doesn't apply to inmates who are in state prison for serious crimes.
If a county prosecutor or judge objects to the release of one of the inmates, a hearing will be held and a special master will make the final decision.
Murphy said no other state was taking these "drastic" steps to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 in jails.
When the public health emergency is declared over, those released from jail will have to appear before Superior Court to determine whether their custodial sentences should be reinstated or commuted, said officials. Other aspects of sentences, such as no-contact orders and drivers’ license suspensions, remain in effect for inmates released through the Supreme Court order, they said.
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