Testa: Murphy’s Pandemic Prison Policies Putting Communities, Corrections Officers at Risk

Senator Michael Testa warned that a new round of prisoner releases and pandemic mandates by the Murphy administration will make New Jersey less safe and put corrections officers at risk.

“Governor Murphy used the cover of the pandemic to release 40% of the inmates from New Jersey’s prisons over the last two years,” said Testa (R-1). “With thousands of inmates set free without effective oversight or support, it’s no surprise that some of our cities are struggling with record levels of violent crimes.”

According to NJ.com, more than 5,300 prisoners were released early from incarceration during the initial COVID-related public health emergency that stretched from March 2020 to June 2021.

Following the mass releases, Paterson set records for homicides in each of the last two years, as reported by The Record.

The Murphy administration has said that another wave of prisoner releases can be expected following Governor Murphy’s declaration of a new public health emergency earlier this month.

“Early release has proven to be a tragically bad policy for some of New Jersey’s urban communities,” said Testa. “Governor Murphy has a responsibility to stop the problem he created from getting worse.”

Testa also pointed to another pandemic policy that risks putting corrections officers in greater danger inside the walls of our prisons.

Last week, Governor Murphy followed his new emergency declaration with another executive order imposing a stricter vaccine mandate for corrections officers that eliminates a testing alternative to vaccination.

Under the order, officers who don’t comply with the vaccination requirement would be fired from their jobs, even if they have naturally acquired immunity from a prior infection, which is scientifically proven to offer protection similar to or greater than that achieved through vaccination.

In response, the State PBA, which represents corrections officers, said they’re going to take the Murphy administration to court to challenge the order.

“Corrections officers know that the new vaccine mandate puts their safety at risk if they don’t have enough staff to keep our prisons under control,” added Testa. “Maybe Governor Murphy thinks it won’t matter if he fires a bunch of prison guards since he’s letting all of the inmates out anyway. One thing’s for sure, the governor’s pandemic prison policies will make New Jersey less safe for everyone.”