TRENTON, NJ – On Wednesday, the New Jersey Department of Corrections released 2,258 prisoners into neighborhoods across the state.
A report today in the New York Times confirmed the state’s largest-ever single-day release of incarcerated inmates. That release will reduce the overall population in New Jersey’s prison system by 35% since the pandemic began.
On Tuesday, a DOC memo was leaked by New Jersey State Senator Michael Testa noting that some of those released inmates tested positive for COVID-19 and would be driven to bus stops and train stations. Today, New Jersey Department of Corrections Communications Director Liz Velez said 11 of the 2,258 released prisoners were COVID-19 positive and those released inmates were not released to public transportation hubs as stated in the leaked memo.
As Governor Phil Murphy continues his mass-release of incarcerated prisoners from state correctional facilities, today marks the day of one of the state’s largest prisoner releases. Some of those prisoners being released are infected with COVID-19, according to a memo released on Tuesday.
A confidential memo, allegedly being circulated by the New Jersey Department of Corrections that was made public today suggests the administration of Governor Phil Murphy is dropping off COVID-19 positive inmates across New Jersey at train stations and bus depots.
A copy of the memo can be seen at the bottom of this article.
The memo, released by New Jersey State Senator Michael Testa said the unloading will happen on Wednesday, November 4th. The memo suggests any NJDOC employee involved in the mass release of prisoners must wear full PPE gear, including gown, glove, face shields, goggles and N95 respirators.
“The Division of Operations has been notified by the NJDOC Health Services Unit that we have few COVID positive inmates who are being release[sic] on November 4, 2020,” the memo reads. “As a result, you are required to ensure the following: Any COVID positive inmates(s) that is being released and is in need of transportation to a train/bus station, must be transported by the facility alone or cohort together.”
While New Jersey state workers have been given advance notice on the release of COVID-19 inmates, the general public has received no such warnings.
“After subjecting law-abiding residents to draconian restrictions and enforcement actions to ‘stop the spread,’ we have an internal memo detailing how the Murphy administration is planning the early release of inmates who are known to be infected with COVID-19 into our community with no oversight or warning,” said Testa (R-1). “Even worse, those inmates will be released at transportation hubs where they’ll board trains and buses with unsuspecting passengers and employees who won’t realize they’ve been exposed to the coronavirus. Instead of being forced to quarantine like everyone else, those sick inmates will have the opportunity to be super spreaders of the coronavirus all over New Jersey with bus and train tickets paid for by Governor Murphy.”
“NJDOC staff are being directed to don full PPE to transport sick and potential infectious prisoners, but where’s the warning or concern for the general public who will be exposed to the newly released inmates just minutes later?” asked Testa. “After all the governor’s bloviating, this ‘knucklehead’ action by his administration is completely hypocritical and a clear threat to public safety. It’s yet another Murphy mess that will end in disaster.”