New Jersey Supreme Court orders release of county jail inmates, with some exceptions allowed

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The New Jersey Supreme Court on Sunday evening ordered the temporary release of inmates in county jails in response to the COVID-19 crisis.

The order could affect up to 1,000 inmates, according to a press release by the American Civil Liberties Union of New Jersey. Some exceptions are allowed.

The first batch of releases will take place on March 24 and the second on March 26. The first batch involves inmates serving a jail sentence as a condition of probation and those in jail as a result of a municipal court conviction. Those jailed for other reasons will be released on March 26.

Prosecutors can file written objections to the release of an inmate.

An inmate will continue to be held for the rest of his or her sentence when a judge finds by a preponderance of the evidence that safety risks cannot be effectively managed.

Inmates who have tested positive or are presumptively positive for COVID-19 should not be released absent instructions from a judge or special master, the order says.

Outstanding warrants are paused under the order, except for warrants for more serious crimes.

Those who must report to probation officers should do so by telephone or video, the order says.

The terms of the order had been negotiated by the ACLU of New Jersey, the state attorney general, the County Prosecutors Association and the Office of Public Defender.

“This is truly a landmark agreement, and one that should be held up for all states dealing with the current public health crisis,” said ACLU of New Jersey Executive Director Amol Sinha in a press release.

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