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How is the State of New Jersey preventing the spread of COVID-19 in state correctional facilities and halfway houses? Can I visit?
Temporary Visitation Suspension
As of March 14, the Department of Corrections has temporarily suspended visits. To mitigate the impact of the temporary measure, the Department is increasing access to other forms of communication including:
- Expanding inmate and resident access to additional phone calls, free-of-charge.
- Expanding inmate and resident access to additional JPay kiosk usage
- Providing the inmate and Residential Community Release Program population access to free postage.
Legal visitation is unaffected.
For more information, please refer to this document from the Department of Corrections.
Health Precautions And Testing
In consultation with the Department of Health, the Department of Corrections is taking steps to protect those in custody, employees, and visitors from COVID-19 including:
- 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. For example, individuals are provided access to religious materials and for the time being are encouraged to practice their faith in their living quarters. Also, educational programs have been adapted in support of independent study.
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
Low-level Offender Release
On April 10, 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, 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.nj.gov/governor/news/news/56; 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