The New Jersey Supreme Court issued a ruling intended to make the process of releasing people from prison fairer and more efficient by allowing incarcerated people to advocate for their own release, allowing participation of volunteer attorneys from the Office of the Public Defender (OPD), requiring statements of reasons for Department of Corrections decisions denying release, and mandating expedited review of applications for release.

The decision, in response to motion filed by the ACLU-NJ and the OPD, applies to Gov. Murphy’s April 10 executive order, which made a portion of the New Jersey prison population eligible for release due to the severity of the COVID-19 epidemic and the conditions in corrections facilities that intensify its spread.

In addition to the court’s order, the ACLU-NJ calls for immediate passage of legislation, S2519/A4235, to hasten release of people who are approaching the end of their sentences in prison in light of the crisis playing out in state prisons. New Jersey has the highest COVID-19 death rate in its prisons out of every state in the country.

The following can be attributed to Director of Supreme Court Advocacy Alexander Shalom:

“We’re grateful to the Court for issuing this necessary decision, which will save lives, both inside prison walls and outside of them.

“We asked the Court for a process that is fair, that is efficient, and that meets the urgency of the moment, and today’s unanimous ruling did just that.

“The crisis playing out in New Jersey’s prisons demands immediate action from every level of government. The Court did its part, and now other branches of government must take up the mantle.”