On March 22, 2020 the New Jersey Supreme Court signed a consent order calling for the release of individuals from county jails who were detained for certain offenses, in effort to help stop the spread of COVID-19. Advocates estimate that nearly 1,000 inmates could be released, many of whom had been convicted of low level offenses (fourth-degree, disorderly persons and petty disorderly persons offenses) and serving sentences of less than a year, such as simple assault, or for violations of probation.
While the order does not impact most of the incarcerated population in New Jersey, it is a notable step in attempting to help prevent unnecessary risk of spread of COVID-19 in state facilities where at least several have tested positive for the virus.
The prosecutor and attorney general may still object to release based on risk to the public or the inmate and, if so, must follow procedures outlined in the order. The office of the public defender will provide representation in such matters, and ultimately will be decided by a judge or “special master.”
Any warrants associated with a released inmate, except for first degree and second degree crimes, will be suspended until ten days after the rescission of the public health emergency associated with COVID-19.
Released individuals are encouraged to self-quarantine for a period of 14 days. The consent order can be found here: https://www.njcourts.gov/notices/2020/n200323a.pdf