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NJ Releases 2,000 Prisoners After Election Day

NJ Releases 2,000 Prisoners After Election Day

Nov 10, 2020

NEWARK, NJ — New Jersey released more than 2,000 prison inmates last week to help slow the spread of the coronavirus. Many were embraced in their home communities, getting a warm welcome back.

But for nearly 100 of those inmates, the day ended much differently when they were immediately re-apprehended by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents.
Last month, Gov. Phil Murphy signed S2519/A4235 into law, which means an early release for about 3,000 people nearing the ends of their sentences in state prisons.
Under the new law, eligible inmates and parolees can get four months of “credit” for every month they serve during a public health emergency such as the coronavirus pandemic. It will apply to adults and juveniles with less than a year of their sentences left. Anyone who is serving a sentence for murder or aggravated sexual assault, or who has been deemed a “repetitive, compulsive sex offender” is not eligible, lawmakers said.
On Wednesday – the day after the election – New Jersey coordinated a mass release for about 2,000 inmates under the new law. It was celebrated as a huge victory among civil rights advocates, including the ACLU-NJ, which said that by the end of the day, the state’s prison population was expected to drop by a whopping 13 percent.

The move is also expected to help protect the safety of prison correctional officers and other staff members, its supporters say.

  • See related article: NJ Will Release 3,000 Prisoners After Election To Fight COVID-19

However, the day ended behind bars again for 88 inmates, who were sent right back into the penal system courtesy of ICE. All are “violent offenders” or have convictions for serious crimes, federal authorities said.

An ICE-ERO Newark spokesperson offered Patch the following statement on Thursday:

“Eighty-eight inmates with ICE detainers who were released from New Jersey state prisons were taken into ICE custody on [Nov. 4]. All are violent offenders or have convictions for serious crimes such as homicide, aggravated assault, drug trafficking and child sexual exploitation. Some were placed in removal proceedings and housed in ICE facilities outside of NJ, while others were detained locally pending execution of their final orders of removal.”

Last week’s events came as New Jersey rolls out another new law, which restored the voting rights of New Jersey residents on probation or parole. According to advocates, about 83,000 people regained their right to vote just in time for the 2020 election as a result – nearly the population of the state’s capital city, Trenton.

Last week’s mass inmate release was blasted by some conservatives, including state Sen. Joe Pennacchio (District 26).
According to Pennacchio, the prisoner release showcases the “double-standards and jumbled priorities” that have marked Gov. Murphy’s administration throughout the COVID-19 crisis.
“From Day 1 of the pandemic, Trenton has been playing favorites – from picking winners and losers when selecting businesses that could remain open, to prioritizing the well-being of prisoners while ‘sentencing’ innocent senior citizens to locked-down nursing homes where the virus was spreading like wildfire,” Pennacchio said.
“This latest maneuver once again demonstrates the administration is more concerned about releasing criminals than protecting elderly New Jerseyans,” Pennacchio added.
But other elected officials have praised the prisoner release as a humane way to slow the spread of the virus.
On Thursday, Newark Mayor Ras Baraka said that in the Brick City, newly released inmates were greeted with a “heartfelt welcome” and vital information from the city’s Office of Violence Prevention and Trauma, Office of Homeless Services, Department of Health and Community Wellness and Department of Public Safety.
They were also given 15-minute rapid coronavirus tests. Nobody tested positive, Baraka added.
“We’re in a time where it’s critical that we engage with those who have returned home to Newark, and we want to ensure they have the resources to stay on a successful path,” the mayor said.
The philosophy of preparing inmates for success is also a key belief of the New Jersey Reentry Corporation (NJRC), which has been on the forefront of the effort to rehabilitate former inmates for years. Part of that effort has included ensuring that recently released prisoners have access to vital benefits such as food stamps/SNAP, rental assistance, Medicaid, Medication Assisted Treatment and NJMVC identification cards.
The coronavirus pandemic hasn’t made the already-tricky task any easier, the NJRC said. But tough situations also inspire innovative solutions, including a new mobile phone app that gives all formerly incarcerated New Jersey citizens a step-by-step-guide to help get them signed up for social services.
Article Courtesy: patch.com
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