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Can I visit someone at a Department of Corrections facility? What is the State doing to protect people at these facilities?
Visitation at NJ Department of Corrections (DOC) facilities has resumed by appointment. All visitors must adhere to COVID-19 restrictions when visiting facilities:
- Call the facility to schedule your visit
- Wear a face mask
- Sanitize your hands upon entering the facility
- Body temperature screening upon entry
To determine whether visits will be held at a particular facility and what restrictions will be in place, DOC will use NJ Department of Health's color-coded COVID-19 Activity Level Report.
- Red: Visitation program will be temporarily suspended
- Orange: Socially distanced outdoor non-contact visits only for fully vaccinated incarcerated persons.
- Yellow : Socially distanced outdoor visits for all incarcerated persons. Fully vaccinated incarcerated persons are permitted to have contact with their visitors during visits, while the non-vaccinated are to be considered non-contact visits.
- Green: Socially distanced indoor or outdoor visit for all incarcerated persons. Fully vaccinated incarcerated persons are permitted to have contact with their visitors during their visits, while the non-vaccinated are to be considered non-contact visits.
For more information on specific visitation policies, contact the facility you wish to visit.
In consultation with the Department of Health, the Department of Corrections has taken steps to protect those in custody, employees, and visitors from COVID-19 including:
- Offering onsite COVID-19 vaccines to staff and inmates
- Conducting health screenings of all individuals entering its facilities
- Providing all inmates and residents with face masks
- Completing universal baseline testing of staff, inmates, and residents at all Corrections Facilities, Residential Release Programs, and Assessment Centers. For more information about cases and deaths, visit the DOC COVID-19 dashboard.
- Inmates with known exposure to COVID-19 are quarantined in a specifically designated quarantine unit within the facility, and the Department is providing alternative housing for its staff who have been exposed to COVID-19.
- Limiting foot traffic in facilities, with the implementation of flexible work arrangements for non-essential personnel that includes a reduced and rotational workforce.
- Modifying, suspending, or minimizing group activities, dining, recreation, religious gatherings, and education to minimize potential exposure and encourage social distancing.
More information about the steps DOC has taken during this time along with the number of confirmed cases at DOC prisons, halfway houses, and other locations can be found here: https://njdoc.gov/pages/COVID19Updates.shtml
Public Health Emergency Credits
Note: Following the Governor's declaration of a public health emergency in response to the COVID-19 Omicron variant, the Department of Corrections has reinstated public health emergency credits for certain classes of offenders. Eligible individuals have been notified of their release date. Families with questions can call the institution of release for more information or visit the Department of Corrections' COVID-19 page.
On October 19, 2020 Governor Murphy signed legislation which requires public health emergency credits to be awarded to certain inmates and parolees during a public health emergency.
Under the bill (S2519), credits would be awarded to any adult inmate or juvenile who is within 365 days of their scheduled release. Credits would accrue at the rate of 122 days (four months) for each month, or portion of each month, served during the declared emergency with a maximum of 244 days (eight months) of remission to be awarded for any declared emergency period.
Credits would not to be awarded to anyone who is serving a sentence for murder or aggravated sexual assault or who has been deemed a repetitive, compulsive sex offender.
Low-level Offender Release
On April 10, 2020 Governor Murphy signed an Executive Order, establishing a process by which the Department of Corrections may grant temporary reprieve to certain at-risk inmates during the public health emergency. This creates the Emergency Medical Review Committee to make recommendations on which inmates should be placed on temporary home confinement through the Commissioner's statutory furlough authority. All recommendations to place an individual on home confinement will be made after thorough review and consideration of the conditions that an individual may face in the community.
The four categories for priority early release include individuals aged 60 years or older; individuals with high risk medical conditions, as determined by DOC in consultation with the Department of Health; individuals whose sentences expire within the next three months; and individuals who were denied parole within the last year. Individuals who have been convicted of a serious offense, including murder, manslaughter, kidnapping, sexual assault, robbery, aggravated assault, or any offense subject to the No Early Release Act, will be ineligible for temporary reprieve.
On March 22, 2020 the New Jersey Supreme Court issued an order to suspend or commute county jail sentences for low-risk inmates. The order commutes or suspends county jail sentences currently being served by county jail inmates either as a condition of probation for an indictable offense or because of a municipal court conviction. At the conclusion of the public health emergency, those released from jail will appear before the court to determine whether their custodial sentences should be reinstated or commuted. No-contact orders, drivers' license suspensions, and other conditions will remain in force.
Source: https://www.njcourts.gov/pressrel/2020/pr032320a.pdf; https://www.state.nj.us/corrections/pdf/AlertMessage/200312_NJDOC_PreparedAddressCOVID19.pdf; https://nj.gov/governor/news/news/562020/approved/20200501a.shtml; Health Commissioner Persichilli's Remarks 6/5/20; https://njdoc.gov/pdf/PressRelease_PS/201006_Resumption_Visitation.pdf; https://nj.gov/governor/news/news/562020/approved/20201019c.shtml