Temporary reprieve granted to certain inmates during COVID-19 crisis

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Urban News Staff Reports

Gov. Phil Murphy signs an executive order establishing a process by which the Department of Corrections may grant temporary reprieve to certain at-risk inmates during the public health emergency.

Murphy's executive order creates the Emergency Medical Review Committee to make recommendations on which inmates should be placed on temporary home confinement through the Commissioner’s statutory furlough authority.

All recommendations to place an individual on home confinement will be made after thorough review and consideration of the conditions that an individual may face in the community.

The order will take effect immediately.

“My Administration’s top priority is the health and safety of all nine million New Jerseyans, including those who are currently incarcerated,” said Murphy. “The correctional setting presents unique challenges to social distancing, particularly for vulnerable populations. Allowing some of our most vulnerable individuals who do not pose a public safety threat to temporarily leave prison will protect both their health, and the health and safety of the men and women working in our correctional facilities. With this action, New Jersey will join several other states, and the federal government, in taking necessary steps to strike a balance between public health, public safety, and victims’ rights.”

"The health and safety of our staff, inmates and the public-at-large is of paramount importance,” said Department of Corrections Commissioner Marcus O. Hicks, Esq. “This Order helps address social distancing challenges in the correctional setting and prioritizes the needs of medically vulnerable inmates during this public health crisis.”

The four categories for priority early release include, individuals aged 60 years or older, inmates with high risk medical conditions, as determined by DOC in consultation with the Department of Health inmates whose sentences expire within the next three months and and. inmates who were denied parole within the last year.

“Today Governor Murphy demonstrated his commitment, yet again, to breaking the back of this pandemic and protecting our state’s most vulnerable populations,” says Rev. Charles Boyer, pastor of Bethel A.M.E. Church and executive director of Salvation and Social Justice. “Releasing elderly and chronically ill people from our prisons is necessary not only as a public health intervention, but also a huge step in the direction of racial justice.”

Individuals who have been convicted of a serious offense, including murder, manslaughter, kidnapping, sexual assault, robbery, aggravated assault, or any offense subject to the No Early Release Act, will be ineligible for temporary reprieve.  However, the Committee would be able to consider any and all previous convictions when making recommendations for home confinement.

“We routinely receive communication from people on the inside—prisoners, nurses, and staff—that tell us the truth about the horrific conditions of confinement during this health crisis,” said New Jersey Campaign for Isolated Confinement (NJ-CAIC) organizer Marshall “Justice” Rountree. “We applaud the Governor and the Commissioner for their strong words, and we are closely monitoring their actions. Today is a big step, but, as we stated in our open letter, there are currently major gaps in what is being said and what is being done to ensure the safety of all people in these facilities.”

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