The COVID-19 death rate of inmates in New Jersey is the highest in the country. To help reduce the spread due to overcrowding in New Jersey’s prison systems, legislation that would require public health emergency credits to be awarded to certain inmates during public health emergency clears an Assembly panel.
The bill (A-4325), sponsored by Assembly members Raj Mukherji (D-Hudson), Shavonda Sumter (D-Bergen, Passaic) and Verlina Reynolds-Jackson (D-Mercer, Hunterdon) would provide for public health emergency credits to be awarded to certain inmates in the event a public health emergency is declared by the Governor as a result of communicable or infectious disease and results in the modification of correctional facility operations.
The sponsors issued the following joint statement on the bill:
“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. 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 an inmate in the custody of the Department of Corrections who is serving a sentence or receiving jail credits applicable to the sentence.
The credits would provide further remission from both the maximum and minimum term of the inmate’s sentence at the rate of six months for each month served during the declared emergency with a maximum of 12 months of remission to be awarded for any declared emergency period. Awarding of public health emergency credits would not limit or affect an inmate’s eligibility for parole consideration.
The bill will go to the Speaker for further consideration.