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:
State health officials said they believe the virus is "community-spread" in New Jersey. "Community-spread indicates that the coronavirus is amongst us," Persichilli announced. Read more: Coronavirus May Be 'Community-Spread' In NJ
Murphy issued a stay-at-home order, closing all non-essential business at 9 p.m. Saturday, March 21. Read more: Gov. Murphy Announces NJ 'Stay-At-Home' Order Due To Coronavirus
On Monday, March 16, Murphy announced that all schools would close on Tuesday, March 17. Read more: NJ Schools Will Close Due To Coronavirus Outbreak: Gov. Murphy
Here are 10 resources for you and your family to utilize as you navigate through the outbreak: Unemployment, Tests, Food: 10 NJ Resources In Coronavirus Crisis
Murphy issued an executive order on Thursday, March 19 to ensure voters can exercise their right to vote without risking their health and safety. Read more: Coronavirus Alters NJ Election Procedure, Moves Election Dates
The first person in New Jersey to die of the coronavirus was reported on Tuesday, March 10. Read more: First NJ Coronavirus Death, 4 New Cases: Governor
New Jersey's courts suspended all new jury trials until further notice, Chief Justice Stuart Rabner said on Thursday, March 12. Read more: Coronavirus Throws Monkey Wrench Into New Jersey Court System
State Supreme Court Chief Justice Stuart Rabner announced on Saturday, March 14 that municipal court sessions will be suspended.
The New Jersey Motor Vehicle Commission said it's also closing temporarily. Read more: New Jersey MVC Shuts Down Because Of Coronavirus
Four members of the same New Jersey family died from the coronavirus, according to March 19 reports. Read more: 4 In Same Family, Including 3 In NJ, Die Of Coronavirus: Reports
The deadline for Americans to file federal taxes was moved from April 15 to July 15, U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin tweeted on Friday, March 20. Read more: Federal Tax Day Postponed To July 15 Amid Coronavirus Outbreak
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.
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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