Release of county inmates is ‘absurd,’ Monmouth sheriff says
Not everyone is on board with the release of prisoners from New Jersey's county jails in order to relieve crowded conditions and slow the spread of the novel coronavirus.
New Jersey Chief Justice Stuart Rabner signed an order late Sunday that allows certain inmates serving in county jails to be released this week. The order applies to individuals housed in the jails — as opposed to state prisons — as a condition of their probation, because they're in for because of municipal court convictions, or because they're serving time for fourth-degree or disorderly persons offenses.
It does not apply to those awaiting trial and ordered held because they could pose a flight risk or are deemed a danger to others. County prosecutors earlier this week were asked to file objections to the releases of any prisoners they thought would be problematic. The Asbury Park Press, citing information from the Public Defender's Office, reported 809 inmates would be eligible in all, but only 497 faced no objection — the remainder will be decided at hearings judged by special masters.
The order, believed to be the first of its kind at the state level amid the COVID-19 pandemic, does not commute sentences — which means prisoners could be returned after the public health emergency.
Cumberland County Freeholder Director Joe Derella in a statement on behalf of all members said the release of prisoners from county jails is “risky and poorly thought out” and is “deeply disturbing," NJ.com reported.
Derella said he is concerned that released inmates who are already infected will be able to travel and contribute to the community spread of COVID-19.
Monmouth County Sheriff Shaun Golden called the release “absurd.”
"It is absurd that this court order to release inmates includes cases such as failure to register as a sex offender, child endangerment, resisting arrest/assault on our law enforcement officers with no regard for the victims," Golden wrote on his Facebook page, adding that there are no known COVID-19 cases in the Monmouth County Correctional Facility. "Is this really about preventing an outbreak in our jail."
Golden told New Jersey 101.5 Monmouth County has a very clean facility to begin with, but is taking extra precautions to ensure everyone inside is safe and healthy.
"We have space and distance available for the inmates in the facility and medically we have a really dedicated and exceptional medical and correctional staff," Golden said.
Golden said that Monmouth County Prosecutor Christopher Gramiccioni has filed objections to releasing 21 of the 64 inmates who'd be deemed elibible under Rabner's order. Those cases will be heard Thursday, he said.
"Those cases should not be let out and we hope that the prosecutor wins those contests."
Vin Ebenau contributed to this report.
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