Ninety-five New Jersey prisoners released ahead of schedule Wednesday were picked up by federal immigration officers, reports NJ.com. More than 2,200 were released early statewide, the result of a first-in-the-nation law reducing sentences because of the threat of COVID-19 behind bars. Corrections officers can hand someone over to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement if the person has been convicted or charged with a serious crime or has a pending deportation order from a court. Those guidelines were followed Wednesday, said the state corrections department. “All are violent offenders or have convictions for serious crimes such as homicide, Aggravated Assault, drug trafficking and child sexual exploitation,” said an ICE statement. Another 100 of the early releases had other orders from courts to keep them detained, and they were turned over to different law enforcement agencies.
State Sen. Joe Pennachio criticized the releases in light of the state’s nursing home deaths. “Is this about public health, or is it about releasing prisoners?” Pennachio said. “This latest maneuver once again demonstrates the administration is more concerned about releasing criminals than protecting elderly New Jerseyans.” Social service agencies met with all prisoners getting out early to make sure those in need had food, medication, housing and Narcan, a nasal spray used to reverse the effects of an opioid overdose. Anyone who didn’t have at least $25 were given a $25 grocery card, and some without housing received another $150. Nonprofit and religious leaders at prisons and transit hubs said the releases generally went smoothly. “New Jersey more than met the challenge,” said former Gov. Jim McGreevey, who leads the New Jersey Re-entry Corporation.