TRENTON, NJ – When New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy renewed the COVID-19 pandemic state public health emergency order last Monday, he also renewed the state’s early release law that has so far freed 5,300 criminal inmates from state prisons.
The Gothamist reported this week, that the Governor has more releases planned as the omicron variant of the virus continues to spread across the state. The early release program ended with the Governor’s original public health emergency declaration in October.
Now, as he declared a renewed public health emergency, he also renewed his ability to empty out the prisons and set criminals free. Last year, 5 people were killed statewide by criminals set free under Murphy’s early release program.
“The first-in-the-nation law allowed prisoners to accrue public health credits due to COVID-19 — similar to earning time off for good behavior — and slash up to eight months off their sentence. At the time, New Jersey’s prisons had one of the worst COVID-19 death rates,” the Gothamist reported.
Murphy’s release orders slashed the state prison population by 40% and 9% of those released were incarcerated within their first year back out on the streets.
The existing public health emergency will expire 30 days from when it was activated, but Murphy can renew the emergency in February.