Murphy: Releasing 2,800 Inmates Has Allowed for Safe Social Distancing in State Prison System

TRENTON, NJ – Struggling and impacted small businesses across the state aren’t getting any lifelines by the administration of Governor Phil Murphy, but after granting early release to 2,800 state prison inmates, the state’s prison population is getting a second round of COVID-19 stimulus.   Governor Murphy today announced a new system of public health emergency credits that will shorten the prison terms of many of the state’s incarcerated prison inmates.

“Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, our administration has worked tirelessly to save as many lives as possible and to stem the spread of COVID-19,” said Governor Murphy. “Since March, the population in State correctional facilities has decreased by nearly 3,000 people (16%), including more than 1,200 people who were released under Executive Order 124. This dramatic reduction has allowed for critical social distancing as part of the fight against COVID-19.”

Murphy said the release of prisoners in the state’s penitentiary system has allowed jail wardens and prison guards to better social distance the inmate population.  With more convicted criminals now released from prison, maintaining six feet while in prison has been a much easier task, according to the Governor.  Murphy did not specify whether or not the volume of prison shankings has been affected as a result of the improved social distancing abilities in the state’s prison system.

“The State Parole Board recognizes Governor Murphy and the New Jersey State Legislature for their commitment in creating a safe, healthy, and sustainable parolee release program,” said New Jersey State Parole Board Chairman Samuel J. Plumeri, Jr. “This law takes into consideration those serving their sentences in our state prisons as well as those within the communities that they will return to.”

Democrat Senator Nellie Pou said, “People in the state’s custody have the same fundamental right to health and safety as everyone else in our society. Given that certain inmates are reasonably able to be released early, particularly those nearing the end of their sentences, this legislation not only gives them security but it will thin the population inside the prisons, more easily provide for social distancing, and keep everyone, including corrections officers, safer.”

“Our prison system has been severely impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. Inmates have been afflicted at a particularly alarming rate due to the inability to quarantine or practice social distancing, creating a higher risk for individuals and the community at large upon their release,” said Assemblymembers Mukherji, Sumter, and Reynolds-Jackson in a joint statement. “Public health emergency credits will help expedite the release of certain inmates who are approaching the end of their sentences to reduce transmission to inmates and correctional facility staff. If we can enhance public health and safety by releasing eligible prisoners who are getting out anyway, we can effectively help reduce the spread of the virus in these facilities and reduce risk to the community upon their release.”

Under the bill, public health emergency credits would be awarded to any adult inmate or juvenile who is within 365 days of their scheduled release. Credits would accrue at the rate of 122 days (four months) for each month, or portion of each month, served during the declared emergency with a maximum of 244 days (eight months) of remission to be awarded for any declared emergency period.  Credits would not to be awarded to anyone who is serving a sentence for murder or aggravated sexual assault or who has been deemed a repetitive, compulsive sex offender.