Monmouth Lawmakers speak out against NJ order that releases inmates
Following a decision nearly a week ago by Chief Justice Louis Rabner to carry out a consent order in New Jersey to released hundreds of low level offenders, who meet certain criteria, from incarceration to prevent the spread of the Covid-19 coronavirus, the Monmouth County Sheriff, Prosecutor and State Representatives have voiced their opposition to this measure.
Monmouth County Sheriff Shaun Golden said that 21 of the 62 "eligible" inmates at the MC Correctional Facility in Freehold who were set to be released under this consent order are those charged with resisting arrest, assaulting a police officer, domestic violence and child endangerment offenses.
"I think it's absurd and I do not believe that they should be released due to those underlying factors, offenses and victims," Monmouth County Sheriff Shaun Golden told WOBM News on March 25.
Monmouth County Prosecutor Chris Gramiccioni filed a contest which was heard in front of a judge on Thursday.
On Monday, Monmouth County State Senator Declan O’Scanlon, Assemblywoman Serena DiMaso, and Assemblyman Gerry Scharfenberger (R-Monmouth) expressed their concerns at the actions taken by the New Jersey Judicial and Executive branches of government with regard to the temporary release of prisoners.
“This action is wrong on its merits, and wrong according to law and the separation of powers laid out in our constuction. The Legislature, by design, is supposed to be part of our lawmaking and decision making process. Our NJ founding fathers recognized the hopefully, collective wisdom of the legislature. It is both foolish, and unlawful, not to tap into that reserve on a decision of this magnitude,” Senator O’Scanlon said. “I have a great relationship and the utmost respect for members of the Judiciary, the Governor, and the Attorney General. However, we make criminal and sentencing laws clear and unambiguous for a reason, in addition to the boundaries set very clearly in the constitution regarding the separation of powers. I am not a legal scholar. I know some people in the Judiciary who say they are. So it shocked and disturbed me to hear that the Judiciary and the Executive Branch of government schemed together and thought that it was a good idea to unilaterally usurp our law making powers.”
The prosecutor’s office vehemently opposed 22 of the 62 cases eligible under the consent order and had to scramble last week and make appeals.
Some of those slated for release had criminal histories again that include assaults on police officers, arson, domestic violence, Megan’s Law offenses, and murder.
“Thankfully, we currently do not have COVID-19 in our jail in Monmouth County,” Assemblywoman DiMaso said. “Even if we did, some of the inmates proposed to be released into our community under this court order posed a serious threat to our community. We should be making sure that we are making every social distancing effort within our jails, not sending prisoners back out into the community. We were fortunate in Monmouth that Prosecutor Grammiccioni and Sheriff Golden fought hard to mitigate this near total disaster.”
“It’s bad enough that the Governor’s office made the request without consulting the Legislature or asking for emergency legislation,” Assemblyman Scharfenberger said. “It’s worse that the Governor went to the Judiciary, the supposed neutral branch of government, and they went along with it. It sets a dangerous precedent. These people were in prison for a reason and to send them out into communities without the appropriate discussions with the Legislature is highly concerning. ”
“We were lucky in Monmouth, but I can guarantee that there were criminals released elsewhere in the State that posed a serious threat to their communities,” O’Scanlon said. “The road to hell is paved with good intentions. The safety of our law abiding citizens is our chief concern. We understand the need to protect the prison population, but this situation required a scalpel, not a buzz saw.”
There are a couple other reasons Sheriff Golden explains as to why it would be better to have these particular inmates remain in the correctional facility, including its cleanliness and the amount of space to practice social distancing.
"We have space and distance available for the inmates in the facility and medically we have a really dedicated and exceptional medical and correctional staff," Sheriff Golden said. "One could make the argument that they would be best served to be in the facility and not out as a potential carrier or contagion in the community. I understand what the order was trying to accomplish however I think the order went a little far with including some of those offenses that I outlined."
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