Morris County Releases Prisoners Due To Coronavirus Outbreak

·6 min read

This article originally appeared on the Morristown Patch

MORRIS COUNTY, NJ - Responding to the novel coronavirus, or COVID-19 epidemic, Morris County Correctional Facility officers began a release of prisoners on Tuesday.

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The staggered release of 28 non-violent offenders in compliance with a New Jersey Supreme Court order that suspended county jail sentences of certain inmates to minimize risks of the spread of COVID-19 in correctional facilities.

Morris County Sheriff James M. Gannon said that a total of 17 Morris County inmates and 11 Sussex County inmates who were held in the Morris County Correctional Facility under a shared services agreement are expected to be released throughout Tuesday.

All the released inmates have been provided with a basic ID made by the Morris County Sheriff’s Office to facilitate their re-entry into the community. Before the release began Tuesday, there were 200 inmates housed at the Morris County Correctional Facility.

Correctional Facility Warden Christopher Klein said that all the inmates, prior to release, are having their temperature taken and are asked a series of questions about their health and whether they are experiencing coronavirus-type symptoms such as a cough, shortness of breath, runny nose or sore throat.

If an inmate to be released exhibits or indicates illness, he or she will be held until a medical evaluation is done, Klein said.

“We are living in an extraordinary period of time as the courts have recognized. The release of inmates, pursuant to court order from the Morris County Correctional Facility, is being conducted in a smooth and orderly manner, with assurances that all being released have an address to go to, transportation to that address, and are not exhibiting signs of illness," Gannon said. “With the safety of the community paramount, the inmates being released by court order were carefully selected and not considered a danger to the public.”

The release eligibility of specific inmates was made by Public Defenders and the Morris and Sussex County Prosecutor’s Offices, and approved by orders of the Superior Court. Klein said that Sussex County Correctional Facility Officers are transporting inmates back to Sussex County if they were not able to secure a ride.

The release is in compliance with the state Supreme Court order signed Sunday that suspended or commuted county jail sentences for low-risk inmates in light of the public health emergency caused by COVID-19.

The order, signed after conferences with the state Attorney General’s Office and New Jersey Association of County Prosecutors, and upon a petition by the New Jersey Office of the Public Defender, 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.

When the public health emergency is declared over, those released from jail will have to appear before Superior Court to determine whether their custodial sentences should be reinstated or commuted. Other aspects of sentences, such as no-contact orders and drivers’ license suspensions, remain in effect for inmates released through the Supreme Court order.

Here's what else you should know:

How It Spreads

The virus that causes COVID-19 is spreading from person-to-person. Someone who is actively sick with COVID-19 can spread the illness to others. That is why CDC recommends that these patients be isolated either in the hospital or at home (depending on how sick they are) until they are better and no longer pose a risk of infecting others.
There is currently no vaccine for COVID-19.
While the best way to prevent illness is to avoid virus exposure, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention always recommends taking preventive actions to contain the spread of viruses.

This includes:

  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth.

  • Stay home when you are sick.

  • Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash.

  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces using a regular household cleaning spray or wipes.

  • Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially after going to the bathroom, before eating, after blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing.

Residents who have questions about the virus can contact the State of New Jersey's hotline at 1 (800) 222-1222. The hotline is home of the New Jersey Poison Information and Education System, and is staffed 24 hours a day by state health workers.

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