"Unacceptable, It is absurd that this court order to release inmates includes cases such as - failure to register as a sex offender, child endangerment, resisting arrest/assault on our Law Enforcement officers with no regard for the victims. Is this really about preventing an outbreak in our jail? No cases (COVID_19) in Monmouth Correctional facility to date." Sheriff Shaun Golden
HOLMDEL, NJ - Well, it didn't take long and, for many, it wasn't a surprise.
A released prisoner has already been rearrested.
Monmouth County Sheriff Shaun Golden publicly expressed outrage that Governor Murphy was allowing - and even forcing - prisoners that showed symptoms of COVID-19, onto local streets.
"This is an exploitation of a policy that certainly was pushed with an agenda." Stated Golden in a television interview with Fox News. "None of the other jails were consulted before this went to the 'show cause' order. In one case we had a release on Tuesday, he was arrested for shoplifting and theft on Wednesday - so this is what's happening here. It's certainly a drain on our public safety resources."
The prisoner release plan has been controversial since it went into place.
Nearly a thousand men and women who were sentenced to jail were eligible to be released to New Jersey streets. The reason cited is the virulent nature of Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) in New Jersey prisons.
A consent order signed by Justice Rabner last week is what allowed the State of New Jersey to initiate a process to release prisoners. Some of the details:
Victims of violent crime will be notified of early release. County Prosecutors can also demand individual hearings which would be decided by a Special Master. Gruwal said he took 'no pleasure' in it but thought it necessary.
The prisoners need to be collected and placed back in prison after the virus ends. That is, unless they don't. The ruling leaves it up to others. Prisoners could opt out since they are already in a room with food and medical care. However, based on the ruling, they can be forced out anyway. They can also be sent home showing symptoms of COVID-19 based on the order. Testing for COVID-19 is not listed as mandatory prior to release:
All inmates being released from county jails are encouraged to self-quarantine for a period of fourteen (14) days. Unless otherwise ordered by the judge(s) or Special Master(s), any inmate being released from a county jail who appears to be symptomatic for COVID-19 is ordered to self-quarantine for a period of fourteen (14) days and follow all applicable New Jersey Department of Health protocols for testing, treatment, and quarantine or isolation.
In cases involving domestic violence, notification shall be made. N.J.S.A. 2C:25-26.1. Law enforcement shall contact the victim using the information provided on the “Victim Notification Form.” Attorney General Law Enforcement Directive No. 2005-5. Where the information provided on the “Victim Notification Form” does not allow for victim contact, the Prosecutor shall notify the Attorney General.
"All these individuals will have to comply with the same stay at home orders that are in effect right now." Stated Gruwal. "They'll have to complete their sentences when our public health emergency concludes. The order also creates a process to ensure that inmates who are being released have a safe place to go and that we connect inmates with the necessary help they need outside the wall, whether its medical treatment or shelter or other housing services."
However, they do not necessarily have to come back. The terms can be modified so they don't have to go back. That was in the actual order but was not stated by Gruwal at the press conference.
There was no financial impact statement at the press conference by Gruwal on the fiscal or societal cost or benefit of prisoners being outside what he called "the wall."
"I'm a career prosecutor and I take no pleasure in temporarily releasing or suspending county jail sentences." Stated Gruwal, "even for the lowest level inmates that are contemplated by todays consent order but this is the most significant public health crisis we've faced in our states history. When this pandemic concludes I need to be able to look my daughters' in their eyes to say that we took every step possible to help all the residents in this state, including those serving county jail sentences." Stated Grewal.
The order did not address the steps to be taken when released prisoners are rearrested.
The order specifically allows prisoners that show signs of COVID-19 to be forced out of prison by Grewal even if the prisoner opposes his or her own release.
Meaning, infected prisoners can leave the prison and infect other people, potentially exacerbating causing 'community spread'. Golden this effect along with other during his objections.
Medical professionals state that you can be infected with no symptoms and still create community spread.