Prior to 2016, judges had three options when determining an individual’s pretrial release status: release on own recognizance (ROR), set money bail, or remand. This resulted in a significant number of people held simply because they could not make bail. In in 2015 alone over 46,000 individuals were detained in city jails because of bail. What the system lacked was a consistent option for those who could be or were released, but needed more assistance making their required court appearances.
Supervised Release provided the courts with this new option. It has been a major driver of the 67% reduction over the last decade in the number of people held in New York City jails because they couldn’t make bail.
In 2015, the launch of Supervised Release (SR) was announced citywide. SR is a court-ordered program and non-monetary condition that provides community-based supervision and support for individuals with pending cases in New York City Criminal or Supreme Court. The purpose of SR is to help ensure a person’s return to court, which is the primary criteria used by judges when making bail decisions under New York State law. Since its launch in March 2016, SR has helped divert over 24,000 individuals from jail. On December 1, 2019, SR eliminated all eligibility requirements that previously limited its use in preparation for the bail reform that went into effect January 1, 2020.
SR’s unique model employs experienced non-profit agencies to provide community-based supervision and support for individuals awaiting trial. Supervision is focused on engagement, ensuring that participants return to court and avoid arrest, and connecting individuals with support systems in their communities and resources they can use beyond the duration of a criminal case. Findings from an evaluation released in 2020 show that Supervised Release is as effective as cash bail in ensuring people return to court, with fewer unequal outcomes for people in different financial situations.
This programming is important to help break the cycle of rearrest. According to a study issued by Arnold Ventures, individuals detained pretrial for even 24 hours were more likely to be re-arrested in the two years following that arrest than those who were not detained.
SR’s success has made it a national model for nonenforcement-based pretrial diversions. The program was a 2018 finalist for the prestigious Harvard University Ash Center for Democratic Governance and Innovation “Innovations in American Government” Awards.
Supervised Release is managed by the Office of Pretrial Justice Initiatives. Services are provided by three non-profit organizations: