Save New Jersey from the shame of having the worst COVID-19 prison death rate in the nation, Alexander Shalom, Senior Supervising Attorney and Director of Supreme Court Advocacy at the ACLU-NJ, this morning told the Assembly Judiciary Committee.
Fifty people have died behind prison walls from complications of COVID-19.
“That’s nine times higher than Florida, California and Arizona, and seven times higher than New York,”
“We are doing something wrong,” he added. “We have not gotten people out, which [would give the people who remain inside a better shot at social distancing].”
Shalom testified in support of A-4235.
Sponsored by Assembly Judiciary Committee Chairman Raj Mukherji (D-32), the bill requires public health emergency credits to be awarded to certain inmates during a public health emergency declared by the Governor in order to provide remission of time from their sentences.
From the bill:
“The COVID-19 death rate of inmates in New Jersey is the highest in the country. While the State of New Jersey has been severely impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, inmates in this State have been afflicted at a particularly alarming rate, as the inability of inmates to quarantine or practice social distancing creates a higher risk to their lives. In providing a method to award these credits, it is the
sponsor’s intent to expedite the release of certain inmates who are approaching the end of their sentences in order to reduce the risk of harm to inmates and correctional facility staff, while simultaneously protecting the public safety.
“This bill provides for public health emergency credits to be awarded to certain inmates in the event a public health emergency is declared by the Governor that arises as a result of a communicable or infectious disease, and results in the modification of correctional facility operations.”
The bill passed commitee, with only Assemblyman Robert Auth (R-39) and Assemblyman Chris DePhillips (R-40) voting no.