Jersey City Together, a faith-based community advocacy group, is calling on the head of the New Jersey Department of Health and the governor to make COVID-19 testing a priority for low-level offenders being released from incarceration today.
“We are thankful for your decision to prioritize the release of low-level offenders from county jails across New Jersey in order to promote public health,” 12 members of JC Together wrote in a letter to NJ DOH Commissioner Judy Persichilli and Gov. Phil Murphy (D) today.
“However, we want to improve the process after repeated conversations over the last 24 hours with community members, the families of those who are incarcerated, individuals who work in the jail or prison, and direct service agencies serving those individuals.”
Specifically, they are requesting that inmates being released from jail populations with cases of the coronavirus, such as Hudson County, should be tested prior to their release.
Furthermore, coronavirus screenings should be made immediately available to those offenders released from populations with infections, as well as jail staff.
“To contain current infections in the Hudson, Essex, & Morris Co. Jails, testing should be prioritized for people (staff, inmates) who have come into contact with infected individuals,” the letter continues.
“If there are future releases of individuals, there must be better procedures put in place to ensure individuals are tested before release, are given the resources they need for housing, food, etc., and are able to recognize symptoms and can self-quarantine during this pandemic.”
The New Jersey Supreme Court ruled late Sunday night that approximately 1,000 low-level offenders would be released across the state in hopes of preventing the further spread of COVID-19.
At a press conference the following day, Murphy applauded the court’s decision.
“This is a prudent measure and all efforts have been made to ensure public safety … I don’t know that any other American state has done this.”
The office’s of the governor and the NJ DOH did not immediately return emails seeking comment.
JCT had a public meeting scheduled to kick off their criminal justice reform campaign, but postponed the in-person gathering due to coronavirus concerns.
However, they still released a video outlining their goals, which can be viewed below.