NJ Bishops Call for Prison Reform in Light of COVID-19

Northern State Prison, Newark, NJ
William H. Stokes, Bishop of New Jersey
Carlye J. Hughes, Bishop of Newark

The two diocesan bishops who share responsibility for the State of New Jersey have called on the state to reduce its prison population, and take other measures to counter the disparate impact that the COVID-19 virus is having on people of color.

In a wide-ranging pastoral letter, Carlye J. Hughes, the Bishop of Newark, and William H. Stokes, the Bishop of New Jersey, address “the evil of mass incarceration” and call for:

  • Stopping or severely curbing the arrest and incarceration rate of persons for low-level offenses;
  • Releasing those in prison who are vulnerable to COVID-19 due to age or health conditions and who statistically represent a low risk of recidivism.

“New Jersey has among the highest incarceration rates in the nation and also among the highest levels of racial disparity of those incarcerated,” the bishops write. “Unjust sentencing requirements and unsafe conditions in our nation’s jails and prisons, including those in New Jersey, make incarcerated persons, as well as those who guard them or otherwise work in prisons, ‘sitting ducks’ for the COVID-19 virus.”

The bishops said: “We appreciate the strong leadership of Governor Phil Murphy on behalf of all citizens in New Jersey. He has shown deep concern for New Jersey’s workers. We urge him to go further.”

The pastoral letter is available in English and Spanish.

See also: “SC Parish Serves At-Risk Community


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