NJ officials plan to release low-risk, non-violent offenders amid COVID-19 crisis

New Jersey officials announced tentative plans to release non-violent offenders amid the continuing COVID-19 pandemic. 

Attorney General Gurbir S. Grewal addressed the public to explain the necessity of releasing low-risk, non-violent offenders in light of the global health crisis.

Prisoners that are serving time in county jails will be released early in an effort to prevent the spread of COVID-19 within corrections facilities and the surrounding communities.

Only prisoners that are serving up to 364 days, approximately one year, or less will be considered for early release per the governor's consent order. 

"These are individuals, typically, who have been sentenced to county jail as a condition of probation," A.G. Grewal explained. "Or they have been sentenced there because of municpal court convictions, or are serving time for fourth degree offenses or disorderly persons offenses."


Offenders would not be considered or eligible for early release if county or state prosecsutors has a specific objection to the release, in which there would be a hearing to further investigate whether or not an inmate should be released.

"To be clear, all of these individuals will have to comply with the same stay-at-home orders that are in effect right now," A.G. Grewal clarified about the process. "They will have to complete their sentences when our public health crisis concludes."

Officials explained that the process would create resources in order to help early-release inmates find help that they might need upon their release and would facilitate their introduction back into societyl 

Early release inmates will receive access to necessary medical treatment and housing services under the process. 

"I'm a career prosecutor and I take no pleasure in temporarily releasing or suspending county jail services -- even for the lowest level inmates that are contemplated by today's consent order ," A.G. Grewal added. "But this is the most significant, public health crisis that we face in our state's history. And it's forcing us to take actions that we wouldn't consider during normal times. We know and we've seen across the river that jails can be incubators for disease so we have to take bold and drastic steps."

A.G. Grewal called the decision "an unprecedented moment" before finishing his address.


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