New Jersey prisoners who are within a year of completing their state prison sentences would be eligible to be released up to eight months early if a proposed bill becomes law.
The New York Times reports that New Jersey lawmakers seemed close to backing the proposal on Thursday.
The bill would free more than 3,000 prisoners amid the coronavirus pandemic if it is signed into law.
The American Civil Liberties Union told the newspaper it believes the proposal is the first legislative initiative of its kind in the country. Prisoners eligible for the early release would receive credit for time served during the pandemic.
If approved, the law would not allow for the release of most sex offenders, but would apply to inmates sentenced for other violent crimes, including murder, according to the newspaper.
“There are people who were sentenced to long prison terms, but they weren’t sentenced to die in prison,” said Amol Sinha, executive director of the ACLU of New Jersey, one of the groups advocating for the passage of the legislation.
Prisons across the country have been releasing inmates to help curb the spread of the coronavirus. The Times reports that the five largest known clusters of the coronavirus in the country are linked to jails.
According to The Marshall Project and The Associated Press, New Jersey’s prison death rate is the highest in the nation.
Since March, 2,892 inmates, which is about 17% of the prison population in the state, and 781 employees in correctional facilities tested positive for the virus. Forty-nine inmates have died and there have been several employee deaths related to COVID-19, according to state records.
Since the coronavirus outbreak, New Jersey has released 338 at-risk inmates under an April executive order. The state also freed nearly 700 people from county jails after a legal challenge.
The bill received bipartisan support during a Senate committee hearing. It could be approved on Thursday, according to the newspaper.
© 2021 Newsmax. All rights reserved.