Between 2,500 and 3,000 inmates in New Jersey state prisons could be released early, with up to eight months remaining on their sentences, if Governor Phil Murphy signs a bill into law, which he has indicated he will do. The Assembly approved the bill, prime sponsored by Assemblyman Raj Mukherji (D-District 33), on Thursday after the State Senate, which earlier had approved a broader version of the measure, agreed to the lower House’s version. The legislation is prime sponsored in the Senate by Sandra Cunningham (D-District 31).
If the bill becomes law, approximately 20 percent of the current state prison population will go free based upon public health emergency credits awarded during a public health emergency, such as the coronavirus pandemic, declared by the Governor.
The only inmates not eligible for this early credit release would be those convicted of murder or aggravated sexual assault. Every other inmate would qualify. That’s why Hudson County Republican Party Chairman Jose Arango is so upset. Earlier this week, Arango told Hudson TV convicted inmates eligible for early release under this legislation include other violent criminals, certain sex offenders and incarcerated juveniles.
Those favoring this early release legislation point to the high rate of positive COVID-19-tested inmates in New Jersey prisons earlier this year. Proponents said New Jersey prisons had the most coronavirus deaths in the country at one point.
Even though the rate of inmates in state prisons in the Garden State has dropped dramatically, Assemblyman Mukherji says the bill is an attempt to keep inmates, corrections officers and staff all safe.
Even though the legislation requires victims of inmates be notified at least five days prior to their early release, the question remains, is it worth the risk to let so many inmates convicted of violent crimes back into the general population?
The New Jersey Law Enforcement Officers Association is staunchly opposed to this partisan legislation.
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