Projects: New York State Parole Project
Vera’s Center on Sentencing and Corrections (CSC) is working with the New York State Division of Parole to provide supervision officers with additional tools to help people complete conditional releases from prison. The project seeks to improve parole oversight so that fewer people return to prison solely for violating the conditions of their release.
CSC is helping officials develop and implement a system of graduated responses that officers can use when someone on parole has a positive drug test, misses curfew, or fails to adhere to any other condition of release. Graduated responses like substance use treatment and electronic monitoring can address low-level infractions of release conditions, such as a missed curfew, as well as higher-level infractions, such as a minor assault, without interrupting people’s transitions back to society.
Parole officials are also piloting an assessment instrument to help guide parole officers’ judgment about the risk each parolee poses to public safety and his or her need for services. The instrument will help determine appropriate supervision levels and ensure suitable responses to violations.
The project’s key activities include:
- Facilitating meetings of the New York State Commission on Sentencing Reform. In 2008, Vera staff provided the commission, which focused on improving parole outcomes, with information on national best practices and brought in experts from other states—Vera Associates—to discuss their experience with similar reforms. These efforts led to the recommendations included in the commission’s report to Governor Paterson in 2009.
- Holding “listening sessions” around the state in which CSC staff learned about the challenges parole officers face in carrying out their responsibilities and implementing new practices. These sessions also provided an opportunity for Vera staff to share information about innovations in parole with field officers.
- Conducting research to guide policy development. This includes analyzing data to identify what factors predict parole violations and interviewing parole officers and parolees to learn why violations occur, how officers decide how to respond, and what factors contribute to success on parole.
Why Focus on Parole?
More than 800,000 people in the United States are under criminal justice supervision following their release from prison. In New York State, more than a quarter of those who have been released from prison on parole are re-incarcerated within three years—often for violations of the conditions of release rather than for a new offense. Revocations to prison for noncriminal behaviors are costly for the state and destructive for individuals trying to reenter society. Vera’s Center on Sentencing and Corrections is using data collection, policy analysis, and technical assistance to help states learn what works to achieve better outcomes in parole supervision.
For more information, contact center director Peggy McGarry.