Office of Pretrial Justice Initiatives

Issue

New York City is the safest big city in the country and has the lowest incarceration rate of any big city in the country. As part of the administration’s ongoing effort to create a smaller, safer, and fairer justice system, we remain committed to safely reducing our jail population through pretrial initiatives that provide participants with services and programming.

Solutions

Mayor Bill de Blasio launched the Office of Pretrial Justice Initiatives in November 2019. Embedded in the Mayor’s Office of Criminal Justice, OPJI coordinates city partners involved in pretrial work, develops related strategies to safely reduce the jail population, and runs a number of city initiatives to divert individuals away from jail as early as possible so they can remain in their communities while their case is pending.

Part of New York City’s success in reducing the population of individuals detained pretrial has come from the city’s innovative strategies and programs, including the nationally recognized Supervised Release program. The Supervised Release program’s unique model uses experienced non-profit agencies that employ social workers, case managers, and peer specialists to provide community-based supervision and support, instead of law enforcement. Supervision is focused on engagement, assuring participants return to court and avoid arrest, and providing connections to resources in the community that will endure beyond the disposition of a criminal case.

Before Supervised Release rolled out citywide in 2016, judges had three options when determining an individual’s release status: release on own recognizance, set money bail, or remand to jail. Supervised Release provided judges an additional option for individuals they historically would set money bail on and permitted them to safely remain in their communities during the pendency of their case. Initially, the program had eligibility criteria based on charge and other factors.

In April 2019, the state passed legislation which eliminated bail for most misdemeanors and non-violent felonies and required the court to impose the least restrictive conditions to return to court. The City created the Office of Pretrial Justice Initiatives to manage the growth of the Supervised Release program and coordinate among the many strategies designed to support the implementation of bail reform. OPJI organized city partners, researchers, and experts to manage the expansion of the successful pretrial model and identify ways to safely serve new populations with Supervised Release.