The Supervised Release Program seeks to reduce the number of people held in jail simply because they cannot afford bail.
The Center for Court Innovation has been offering supervised release through Brooklyn Justice Initiatives since 2014. In 2016, the program was expanded city-wide with the Center responsible for implementation in the Bronx and Staten Island. Each year, the Center provides approximately 1900 people with an alternative to pretrial detention.
The presumption of innocence is a bedrock of the American legal system. Yet on any given day in New York City, three-quarters of the jail population is awaiting trial. This can have a devastating impact on employment, education, and families. Moreover, research has shown that even a short stay in jail can increase the probability of future interactions with the criminal justice system.
Recognizing the need for meaningful alternatives to bail, in 2016, New York City expanded existing supervised release pilot programs to serve more defendants across all five boroughs. Further expanding the program is one of the core recommendations of the Independent Commission on Criminal Justice and Incarceration Reform as part of its strategy for cutting the city’s jail population in half in ten years.
Supervised release serves individuals charged with a non-violent felony or misdemeanor offense (excluding domestic violence), who might otherwise be detained pretrial or remanded without bail. Participants also must be deemed eligible by the Mayor’s Office of Criminal Justice’s pretrial risk assessment tool, and agree to abide by the program’s supervision terms.
With the consent of defense counsel, program staff speak with defendants to explain the program. If program staff can verify contact information, defense counsel may request supervised release as an alternative to pretrial detention. The presiding judge will then decide whether the person is released to Supervised Release instead of bail being set.
Supervision consists of in-person meetings and phone call check-ins ranging in frequency from once a month to once a week. The level of supervision is assigned to participants based on their probability of committing a new offense while awaiting trial. Each participant receives a supervision schedule from their social worker. Social workers then schedule face-to-face and phone/electronic contact appointments, and also make voluntary referrals to community-based services (such as vocational/employment services, mental health, substance abuse, and educational services).