What families need to know about New Jersey’s Compassionate Release From State Prison Program
Our criminal defense law firm represents persons charged with serious crimes in Pennsylvania and New Jersey. While in most cases, our lawyers defend persons at trial or in pre-trial hearings such as motions to suppress evidence or preliminary hearings, there are situations where our criminal defense lawyers represent families of convicted persons. In some cases, theses are criminal appeals, but in other cases, clients and their families ask us to advocate on their behalf for a compassionate release from a New Jersey State prison.
What is Compassionate Release?
New Jersey’s Compassionate Release program provides for the release of incarcerated persons with (1) a terminal medical condition, disease, or syndrome or (2) a permanent physical incapacity.
What determines eligibility for compassionate release in New Jersey?
Any person, regardless of their sentence or crime is eligible for compassionate release. To be eligible, however, a person must either have a terminal illness with a prognosis of six (6) months or less to live or a permanent physical incapacity meaning the individual has a medical condition that did not exist at the time of sentencing resulting in permanent inability to perform activities of basic daily living and a need for 24-hour care.
What is the legal process to initiate a compassionate release in New Jersey?
The process starts with the State’s prison’s Administrator/Superintendent and an initial medical diagnosis. Our criminal defense law firm can submit a request for an initial medical diagnosis to the Commissioner of the Department of Corrections (DOC) after reviewing any available documentation related to a client’s current state of health.
This initial medical diagnosis would determine eligibility for compassionate release and requires that two (2) licensed physicians, designated by the Commissioner of Corrections include the following information in their medical finding;
the description of the individuals incapacity,
prognosis concerning the likelihood of recovering from the terminal condition or permanent incapacity,
a description of the physical incapacity
and a description of the type of ongoing treatment required if the compassionate release is granted.
What happens if a person qualifies for a compassionate release?
If the initial medical diagnosis determines that the incarcerated person has a grave medical condition, the Department of Corrections (DOC) would promptly notify our law firm to initiate a Petition for Compassionate Release. Our law firm cannot file a Petition with the Court for compassionate release until there is a subsequent medical diagnosis and DOC has issued a certificate of eligibility for compassionate release. If we receive a certificate of eligibility, we can file a Motion with the Superior Court in the County where your brother was convicted.
Who makes the final determination on a Compassionate Release?
This Court will make the ultimate decision based on our Petition. We cannot file a Petition for compassionate release without a certificate of eligibility. Once the Petition is filed, the Court will notify the Department of Corrections and New Jersey State Parole Board of the filing, along with the County Prosecutor’s office who have fifteen (15) days to respond. In addition, the County Prosecutor’s office must provide notice of the Petition to any victim or the victim’s family who is entitled to notice of this consideration for parole. The victim’s family has the opportunity to present a statement at the compassionate release hearing or submit statements to the Court at the hearing.
Once the Court receives the Petition and all responses, it will decide whether it needs to hold a hearing on the Petition. If the hearing is scheduled, the Court will hold an expedited hearing on the Petition. If the Court does not receive any response from the Prosecutor or the victim, it may not hold the hearing and make a ruling based on the Petition without taking any more evidence or testimony regarding the case.
The Court will not consider a compassionate release unless it finds by clear and convincing evidence that the incarcerated person is so debilitated the person is incapable of committing a crime if released and the release will not pose a threat to public safety.
For more information on New Jersey’s Compassionate Release Program, contact our criminal defense law firm today!
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