June 20, 2013
Legislation proposed by the Bloomberg Administration and passed by the New York State Legislature will allow judicial discretion in establishing the length of probation terms and make pre-sentence investigations optional in New York City for cases that result in a negotiated jail sentence of one year or less. These measures will allow the Courts and Probation Department to concentrate resources on those individuals who pose the greatest risk to public safety, an approach research has shown to reduce recidivism and yield the greatest public safety outcomes.
Statement of Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg
“The task of keeping our communities safe is too important – and our resources are too precious – to have New York City’s Courts and public safety agencies bogged down by policies that do little or nothing to prevent crime. The passage of this legislation will free judges to make decisions regarding probation terms based on the evidence before them. It will also free the Department of Probation to focus more attention on those clients who pose the greatest risk to public safety and respond most dramatically to new opportunities and resources. I want to thank State Senator Martin Golden and Assembly Member Daniel O’Donnell for sponsoring this bill, and for their incredibly hard work on this important issue. I would also like to thank Assembly Members Jeffrion L. Aubry and Joseph Lentol for their steadfast commitment to this issue over the past several years.”
Statement of Department of Probation Commissioner Vincent Schiraldi
“Providing judges with appropriate discretion in determining the length of probation terms is a win-win proposition – sentences will more closely reflect the severity of the crime and the risk an individual poses, and the Department of Probation will be able to reallocate staff to work with clients who present the greatest risk to public safety. This proposal reflects evidence-based practices, and will allow our department to continue to take strides in making our City safer and fairer.”
Statement of Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus R. Vance, Jr., President of the District Attorneys Association of the State of New York
“This pragmatic legislation provides for judicial discretion in sentencing convicted individuals to a term of probation. These reforms also allow probation to focus resources on more complex cases, and those most in need of supervision. Both of these developments are consistent with the mission of District Attorneys around the state to improve public safety, and mirror my own office’s philosophy of intelligence-driven prosecution.”
Probation Terms: Judges can now establish the term of probation for felonies at three, four, or five years, and for misdemeanors at two or three years, based on the nature of the crime and the individual’s criminal history and risk of re-offending. Previously, all A misdemeanor cases resulted in a probation term of three years and almost all felony cases in a probation term of five years. This legislation reflects a wide body of research showing that if a person has complied with the conditions of their release during the first 18 months of their probation term, their risk of reoffending in subsequent months declines significantly.
Pre-Sentence Investigations: For cases ending in a plea-deal with a sentence of one year or less in jail, the pre-sentence investigation is rarely used to inform sentencing. The time and resources the NYC Department of Probation previously spent on these investigations will be reallocated to tasks more critical to ensuring public safety. Judges will continue to have the authority to order a pre-sentence investigation in any case they deem appropriate.
Marc La Vorgna/ Samantha Levine