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Senator Joe Pennacchio

Senator Joe Pennacchio

Pennacchio Blasts Administration for Worrying More About Prisoners than Long-Term Care Residents

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Says They Knew Virus Was Dangerous in Confined Areas, but Failed to Protect Veterans’ and Nursing Homes

This week’s high-profile release of more than 2,200 prisoners from state custody is indicative of the double-standards and jumbled priorities that have marked the Governor’s administration throughout the COVID outbreak, said Senator Joe Pennacchio.

After this week’s early release of 2,200 prisoners to protect them from COVID, Senator Pennacchio said the administration’s concern for criminals is in stark contrast to its treatment of senior citizens confined to long-term care facilities, where more than 7,100 people died. (Pixabay)

“From Day 1 of the pandemic, Trenton has been playing favorites – from picking winners and losers when selecting businesses that could remain open, to prioritizing the well-being of prisoners while ‘sentencing’ innocent senior citizens to locked-down nursing homes where the virus was spreading like wildfire,” Pennacchio said. “This latest maneuver once again demonstrates the administration is more concerned about releasing criminals than protecting elderly New Jerseyans.”

The Governor and the courts began opening the doors to release prisoners as early as March, when Chief Justice Rabner signed an order for the temporary release of almost 1,000 inmates serving their sentences in county jails in an attempt to mitigate the spread of COVID-19.

Now, more than 2,200 prisoners were released early yesterday, including many who tested positive for COVID.

“It makes you question the administration’s motivation here,” said Pennacchio. “Like many of the Governor’s arbitrary edicts during the health emergency, this raises the obvious question: Is this about public health, or is it about releasing prisoners?”

Pennacchio noted that the administration’s concern for criminals has been in stark contrast to its treatment of senior citizens confined to long-term care facilities, where more than 7,100 people died.

“The rush to release prisoners in the spring indicated the administration was well-aware of the dangers of the virus in confined areas like prisons,” said Pennacchio. “Yet at the same time they were unlocking the cell doors, they turned their backs on veterans’ and nursing home residents. Seniors were locked in so they couldn’t leave, and the virus was forced upon them by indefensible government decisions.

“The Governor has never explained to the public why he has acted to protect prisoners and abandoned grandmothers and grandfathers in unprepared and under-staffed facilities. The public policy dichotomy is maddening,” the Senator said.

Pennacchio said this week’s massive prisoner release is one more justification for the Senate Select Committee to investigate the administration’s handling of the pandemic.

“For months I have been calling for the Senate to convene a committee with subpoena powers to review the policies and decisions that impacted the health and lives of residents during the pandemic,” said Pennacchio. “There are so many questions that need answers, and without a thorough investigation to determine where and how things went wrong in the spring, we won’t be able to prevent them from happening again this winter.”

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