Inmates released on bail to decongest central jail

Henrietta Brewer
March 25, 2020

Arrangements for handwashing were in place at the entrances of the 10 blocks inside the prison.

"No other state was taking these "drastic" steps to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 in jails".

The order, signed after conferences with the state Attorney General's Office and New Jersey Association of County Prosecutors, and upon a petition by the New Jersey Office of the Public Defender, commutes or suspends county jail sentences now being served by county jail inmates either as a condition of probation for an indictable offense or because of a Municipal Court conviction. The Supreme Court had earlier advised the judiciary officials to release prisoners, who were involved in theft, assault and other petty cases, on bail.

The inmate's name was not disclosed, but the O.C. The Sheriff's Department said the man is in his 40s.

"Quickly and safely reducing the number of people who are in custody will provide our healthcare professionals the space they need to follow recommendations by Public Health", the county said.

Gov. Jay Inslee's office said in an email he is aware of the issue, takes it seriously and is talking with the department about it.

Already four DOC employees have tested positive for COVID-19, but so far no inmates, according to the agency.

"The COVID virus has really catapulted his survival rate, I'd say, into an abyss", Cook said.

Those inmates will be closely monitored for symptoms and their movements in prison will be restricted for up to two weeks.

But attorneys with Columbia Legal Service insisted that the state has not acted quickly enough.

Around 50,000 protective masks have been delivered for staff to use and a ban on bringing hand sanitiser into the prison had been lifted. "We are limiting the outside exposure as much as possible and for now the inmates are not allowed out on work release".

"We know friends, family and advocates remain concerned and we want to reassure them, we are doing everything in our power to protect our population, especially the most vulnerable in our care, while at the same time recognizing the importance of a global public health response", Guthrie said.

Warden Klein said that Sussex County Correctional Facility Officers are transporting inmates back to Sussex County if they were not able to secure a ride.

"DOC staff are working hard to manage this crisis and will continue to do so", the lawyers said.

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