New Jersey orders county inmates released due to coronavirus

This illustration, created at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), reveals ultrastructural morphology exhibited by coronaviruses, including the novel coronavirus identified as the cause of an outbreak of respiratory illness first det ( Photo by Smith Collection/Gado/Getty Images )

New Jersey's Supreme Court has ordered that some county jail inmates be released in an effort to stem the spread of the new coronavirus. 2,844 people have tested positive in the Garden State.

Chief Justice Stuart Rabner signed an order late Sunday that allows inmates serving in county jails to be released this week. Prosecutors can file objections to the release of specific inmates.

Rabner's order came after the state public defender's office petitioned the court, arguing that keeping inmates detained posed a public health threat. Officials in Hudson County said Sunday that two inmates had tested positive for the coronavirus, prompting a modified lockdown of the facility.

The Supreme Court order allows inmates serving in county jails on municipal court convictions or as part of probationary sentences to be released this week.

Prosecutors can file objections to the release of specific inmates, and those who are released will have to abide by any restrictions as part of their probation. The order doesn't apply to inmates serving in state prison on more serious crimes.

Outstanding warrants for inmates currently serving in county jails will be suspended during the current health emergency, according to the order.

Inmates who have already tested positive for COVID-19 won't be released until a plan for isolation or mandatory self-quarantine is approved.