MORRISTOWN, NJ – Due to concerns about the coronavirus pandemic, 28 inmates at the Morris County jail are being released before finishing their sentences, officials said on Tue., March 24.

The freed inmates were described by the Morris County Sheriff’s Office as being “non-violent offenders." The release, which began March 24, is in compliance with a state Supreme Court order designed to “minimize the risks of the spread of COVID-19 in correctional facilities,” the sheriff’s office said.

Morris County Sheriff James Gannon, in a press release, said 11 of the inmates being released have been at the Morris County jail but are Sussex County cases at the jail under a shared-services agreement.

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Before they are being freed, the inmates are having their temperatures taken and “are being asked a series of questions about their health and whether they are experiencing coronavirus-type symptoms, such as a cough, shortness of breath, runny nose or sore throat,” according to jail Warden Christopher Klein.

Inmates who show signs of illness or say they feel sick, will be held until a medical evaluation is done, he said.

“We are living in an extraordinary period of time as the courts have recognized,” said Gannon. “The release of inmates … 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.”

He said the safety of the community is “paramount,” and said the inmates being released “were carefully selected and not considered a danger to the public.”

In its order, the state Supreme Court touched upon the impact its decision might have on victims of the released inmates, particularly those involved in domestic abuse cases.

“County prosecutors and other law enforcement agencies shall, to the extent practicable, provide notice to victims of the accelerated release of inmates,” said the court. “In cases involving domestic violence … law enforcement shall contact the victim using the information provided in the ‘Victim Notification Form.‘”

The court order also says all the released inmates “are encouraged to self-quarantine” for two weeks. For those who appear to have COVID-19 that suggestion becomes an order.

“When the public health emergency is declared over, those released from jail will have to appear in Superior Court to determine whether their custodial sentences should be reinstated or commuted,” noted the Sheriff’s Office. “Other aspects of sentences, such as no-contact orders and drivers’ license suspensions, remain in effect for inmates released through the Supreme Court order.”

 

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