Since the Public Health Emergency Credit Law took effect on November 4, 2020, more than 6,600 people have been released early from New Jersey prisons and jails, including the 852 people who were released yesterday, March 13, 2022. The New Jersey Department of Corrections expects another 870 people to be released over the next several months. Once the next wave of people come home, more than 8,200 people will have been released from prisons and jails as a result of both the emergency credits and legal advocacy that preceded the law, culminating in a 42 percent reduction in New Jersey’s prison population since March 2020.
The first bill of its kind, the Public Health Emergency Credits Law allowed people nearing their release date to leave prison up to eight months early to prevent the spread of the virus among the incarcerated population and account for the hardship of serving time during the pandemic. Prior to the implementation of public health credits, New Jersey had the worst death rate of COVID-19 in prisons.
The following statement can be attributed to ACLU-NJ Executive Director Amol Sinha:
“At its heart, the Public Health Emergency Credits law is not a pandemic policy, it’s a policy about humanity. It’s a policy recognizing that no one, including incarcerated people and their families, deserves gratuitous suffering. That was true long before the first case of COVID-19, and it’s true for the daily injustices of over-incarceration that will exist long after. This law has shown the urgency of decarceration, and it provides a model for how we can begin to do it on a larger scale, while preserving public health and public safety.”