New Jersey to Free 50 Youths From Juvenile Lockup, Citing COVID

Print More
New Jersey

Photo by R36 Coach via Flickr

A New Jersey law reducing prison sentences as a result of COVID-19 will also apply to juveniles, NJ.com reports.

Under the new law, the state will release 50 juvenile offenders after the November election, which is just over one-fifth of their juvenile prison population. Offenders are currently set to be released between Nov. 4 through Nov. 6.

The article says another eight offenders will be released by early December.

Each juvenile offender released will be provided with transportation home and “individual community transition plans.”

New Jersey’s juvenile offender population, which the Juvenile Justice Commission reported was at 243 last week, has not been impacted as much as inmates in adult prison facilities, the article says.

This could be due to the fact that New Jersey was the first state in the nation to test its entire juvenile offender population. The state’s juvenile population has “dropped dramatically” in the past few years, which has saved tens of millions of dollars and reduced overcrowding in juvenile facilities, officials say.

“Even with these successes, New Jersey’s juvenile justice reform continues, with a specific focus on minimizing racial disparities,” Attorney General Gurbir Grewal said.

In order to qualify for release, juveniles and adults are required to have “a year or less” left of their original sentence, says another article by NJ.com.

Bill S2519, which was signed October 19, was created to reduce the prison population during COVID-19 by releasing thousands of adult offenders earlier than originally intended. New Jersey is the first state in the U.S. to pass a law reducing sentences due to COVID-19.

Under the new law, adult offenders who didn’t commit certain violent crimes such as murder or aggravated assault can get up to eight months off of their original prison sentence. According to the article, current inmates would get four months off their original sentence for ”every month spent behind bars during a public health emergency.”

This means that “thousands of people nearing the end of their sentences will automatically have eight months taken off” as New Jersey’s state of emergency began in March, the article said.

It was also noted that those serving parole have the opportunity to have their parole sentence lessened as well. The article says the first round of releases in early November will apply to approximately 1,388 parolees.

The law does not apply to anyone in federal prison or county jail. However, lessened sentences for those that qualify will continue on a “rolling basis” until the health emergency ends, the article says.

Under the law, inmates are also not allowed to contact the victim of their crime, and risk being put back in jail if they do.

For more information on each state’s response to lowering prison populations during COVID-19, the Brennan Center offers an aggregate list of each state’s efforts.

Read more: N.J. May Free 20% of Prison Population Over COVID-19

 Emily Riley is a TCR news  intern.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *