Due to the threat of the spreading COVID-19 pandemic, Governor Phil Murphy ordered the release of certain NJ cannabis prisoners from jail.
Helping NJ Cannabis Prisoners
Murphy recently signed an Executive Order that released “low-risk” inmates from State Prison who were denied parole in the last 12 months or were scheduled to be free within the next three months. In addition, those who are older due to age and health conditions which make them especially vulnerable to COVID-19 are eligible to be released.
Some will be released and kept under house arrest.
Many of those who are eligible for release are likely in jail for low-level cannabis crimes. Some are likely those who violated their parole for possession. Others could have been convicted of trafficking a small amount of cannabis.
Those who are in prison for serious crimes such as sexual assault and murder are not eligible for parole due to COVID-19.
Legal Issues in a Pandemic
One prison guard has actually died. He was a Middlesex County corrections officer named Nelson Perdomo who worked at East Jersey State Prison for 19 years. He was 44. Around 129 prisoners and 20 prisoners have tested positive for COVID-19 as well.
Unfortunately, many former NJ cannabis prisoners are in halfway houses. In halfway houses, as in prisons, a lot of activity is done en masse which is not conducive to social distancing. Thus, many are still likely to be exposed to COVID-19.
The State Supreme Court already ordered the release of prisoners held in county jails. Those in a county jail are generally pre-trial cases.
This really shows the need for prison reform if the authorities are willing to release people for health reasons.
New Jersey has been the second hardest-hit state in the nation after New York, with the highest amount of cases and deaths.
Three thousand new positive cases of COVID-19 have been diagnosed in New Jersey nearly every day for several days. When this was published, the latest numbers were that 64,584 patients have been diagnosed with the virus and 2,443 people had died from it.
Negative Effects of COVID-19 on NJ Cannabis Prisoners
It is quite likely that the cannabis holiday 4/20 next Monday will be quite subdued. It certainly won’t be the day of rallying and celebration many had envisioned prior to the pandemic. Many firms and groups are seeking to hold webinars instead.
Unfortunately, social distancing and the serious economic downturn must continue in order to halt the spread of this deadly plague. Moreover, it is unclear when it will be safe to end it. The economic, social, health and mental effects will likely be felt for quite some time by many.