December 15, 2004
The Honorable Sheldon Silver
Dear Speaker Silver:
As Chairman of the Assembly Standing Committee on Correction, I am pleased to present to you the Annual Report for the 2004 Legislative Session. During this Session we witnessed the first significant breakthrough in more than thirty years in our efforts to reform the State’s drug laws. In addition, during 2004 the New York State Court of Appeals found certain provisions of the State’s death penalty law to be unconstitutional and in response to this decision, the Assembly held the first in a series of public hearings on this important issue.
The Annual Report also continues the longstanding practice of reviewing the major aspects of state and local corrections by providing budgetary, workload and population demand data. Finally, the Report will highlight the major tasks which await the Committee in the coming legislative session.
I would like to take this opportunity to acknowledge the hard work of the members of the Committee on Correction and all of the members of the Assembly for their continued commitment to the work of the Committee and to progressive corrections legislation. As always, your continued support is deeply appreciated.
|Table of Contents|
2004 Annual Report
Jeffrion L. Aubry, Chair
The Assembly Committee on Correction has jurisdiction over legislation affecting all aspects of the operations of both State and local correctional facilities. This responsibility includes 70 State correctional facilities, 62 county jail systems and all local jails and police lockups operated by municipalities across New York State.
The Committee on Correction works closely with other committees of the Assembly, including the Committees on Alcoholism and Drug Abuse, Codes, Health and Mental Health, Mental Retardation and Developmental Disabilities regarding issues that affect correction staff and inmates.
|II. New York State’s Correctional Population|
A. State Correctional Facilities
As of December 31, 2004, the under custody population of the Department of Correctional Services (Department) was 63,699, and this represents the fifth consecutive year of population decline. In addition, the daily count of state ready inmates (i.e. inmates housed in local correctional facilities who are awaiting transfer to state correctional facilities) confined in local correctional facilities fell within a range of 200 to 400 inmates and this represents the lowest average daily count in more than a decade. In addition to the Department’s population, the Willard Drug Treatment Campus continues to confine an average daily population of approximately 800 inmates. The three month length of stay for Willard inmates results in an annual population of approximately 3,200 inmates.
For the 2004 calendar year, total admissions to the Department were 25,537, which is 1,420 fewer admissions than the previous year. This is a significant decrease in total admissions and it is useful to examine the components of this total figure. New court commitments for this period are 16,389, which is 65% of all admissions and 6% percent fewer than the same period in 2003. In addition, parole/conditional release revocations and remands to prison for this period were 8,204, which is 33% of all admissions and 5% fewer than the previous year.
The continued decrease in the State's prison population derives from the continued decline in felony cases in New York State. Preliminary statewide felony case processing data indicate a continuing downward trend in felony indictments, convictions, guilty pleas and sentences to prison.B. Local Correctional Facilities
The total under custody population among local correctional facilities has remained largely unchanged this year. As of December 31, 2004, the correctional population for New York City was 12,821, which is an increase of 90 over the previous year. County correctional facilities confined 15,141 inmates on December 31, 2004, which is 370 greater than the previous year.C. Parole Supervision
The Division of Parole (Division) is responsible for the supervision of all persons released from the Department who are subject to a term of parole, post release supervision or conditional release. This responsibility includes Division efforts to ensure successful, law obedient adjustment to community living and in many instances Division staff will fulfill the requirements of parole conditions by placing persons in drug treatment, job training, job placement and other services to enhance the likelihood of a self sufficient and crime-free lifestyle. Division staff are also responsible for identifying failure to adhere to parole conditions and to use corrective measures which may include revision of parole conditions, and in some cases parole revocation. According to the Division, as of December 31, 2004, there were 45,162 persons under supervision, 8,553 fewer than the number of parolees under supervision in the previous year. This significant decline in the parole supervision population reflects the impact of legislation enacted last year which authorizes the Division to grant merit termination of parole to eligible non-violent parolees. There were 3,814 merit terminations of parole in 2004.
The Board of Parole reviews all parole eligible prison inmates and either denies or approves release on parole. During the year, inmates were released from prison, 12,584 of which were released on parole, the remaining 1,859 cases were released on presumptive parole under authority given to the Commissioner of the Department through legislation enacted in 2003.
The Board also revoked and remanded to prison 8,126 parole violators for violation of parole rules. In addition, 3,063 parolees were revoked and restored to supervision with the added special condition of completion of the ninety day program at the Willard Drug Treatment Campus.D. Community Corrections Programs
According to data obtained from the Division of Probation and Correctional Alternatives (DPCA), as of December, 31, 2004, there were 122,203 adult probationers under supervision across New York State, including 64,597 felony probationers and 57,606 misdemeanor probationers. In addition, family court caseloads include 7,186 juvenile delinquency cases and 4,339 persons in need of supervision (PINS) cases.
Probation departments are also called upon to conduct investigations and prepare pre-sentence reports based upon those investigations and in 2004, criminal investigations were conducted for 27,058 felony cases and 35,759 misdemeanor cases.
Probation departments also serve as restitution collection agencies throughout the State. During calendar year 2004, departments collected $16 million in court-ordered restitution.
The DPCA also collects statistical data on alternatives to incarceration programs monitored by the agency. Service delivery data is arranged into five programmatic categories: pretrial services, defender-based advocacy, TASC (Treatment Alternatives to Street Crime) and other treatment programs, specialized programs and community service sentencing programs. Workload summary statistics for these programmatic categories for 2004 are listed below.
1. Pretrial Service Programs interviewed more than 36,683 defendants statewide. Of those interviewed, 14,630 were released.
2. Defender-Based Advocacy Programs prepared 5,446 alternative sentencing plans, of which 4,383 plans were accepted by the courts.
3. TASC Programs placed 3,843 defendants in substance abuse treatment programs and 2,449 defendants successfully completed their treatment terms.
4. Specialized drug and alcohol treatment Services placed 4,750 defendants in treatment programs ordered by the courts as alternatives to incarceration. Of this group, 2,064 defendants had successfully completed programs.
5. Community Service Sentencing Programs placed 7,627 defendants for community service and 5,121 defendants successfully completed their work assignments.
|III. State Budget Impact on Correctional Agencies|
A. Department of Correctional Services
The 2004-05 Budget for the Department provides $2.06 billion in state operations funding. The Department possesses the largest state operations budget of any state agency. The 2004-05 Budget also includes $11.4 million in aid to localities funding, principally for the reimbursement for confinement of state inmates in local facilities. In addition, 2004-05 capital funds in the amount of $205 million are appropriated for maintenance and improvements to existing facilities.
In the Executive’s $2 billion State Operations budget for the Department, there is a modest increase ($14.7 million) from the budget for the prior year. However, it is important to observe that as the prison population continues to decline, the increase in the Department’s budget results in a higher cost per inmate, now at approximately $32,000 per year. It should also be noted that the program cuts experienced in 1995 and 1996 have never been replaced and programs which prepare inmates to lead law abiding lives upon release have clearly not kept pace with the systems growing population. This reduction in inmate programs includes reduced staffing for vocational training, academic education, drug and alcohol abuse treatment and other services. This decrease in program services has taken its toll in the day-to-day operations of every correctional facility, making the already difficult jobs of correction officers and prison administrators even more difficult and increasing the risks to personal safety for staff and inmates.
The Executive’s program budget cuts have taken many forms, including the substitution of prison work assignments for vocational training and reductions in academic education. In addition, the Executive continues to employ a policy that limits the availability of substance abuse treatment in general confinement facilities and provides full treatment services only for CASAT (Comprehensive Alcohol and Substance Abuse Treatment) inmates and those inmates who are within a few months of release from prison, notwithstanding the fact that two-thirds of the prison population are substance abusers. It is a widely accepted fact among treatment professionals that substance abuse treatment, if it is to be effective and have a lasting impact, must be of a long term nature. For this reason the Assembly has advocated for a minimum of one full year of substance abuse treatment for those inmates found to be in need of treatment.B. Local Correctional Agencies
The 2004-05 State Budget provides $42.6 million for reimbursement for the confinement of parole violators in local jails pending determination of parole revocation. The current reimbursement of $34 per day covers a fraction of the actual costs of this confinement and the balance is borne by local governments. During 2004, the average daily population of parolees confined in local jails was approximately 2,300 and this represents 7% of the local corrections population.
The State Budget also includes $11.4 million to reimburse for the confinement of state inmates returned to local correctional facilities for court-related matters at the reimbursement rate of $17 per day, and for confinement of state ready inmates at the reimbursement rate of $34 per day.
Absent from the State Budget is reimbursement funding for the Confinement of locally sentenced D and E felony offenders, which in past years had been funded at the rate of $17 per day. This cost is now entirely borne by local government.C. Division of Parole
The Division’s total budget of $187 million provides $136 million in personal service funds for parole operations and $42.6 million in local aid. Local assistance funds reimburse local jail confinement of parole violators and provide funding for various drug and alcohol treatment, vocational training and work experience programs for parolees.D. Division of Probation and Correctional Alternatives
The DPCA’s annual budget of $70.8 million includes $68.7 million in aid to localities and $2.1 million for state operations, funding approximately thirty staff positions.
In most instances, funding for local probation departments and alternatives to incarceration programs provides partial reimbursement for these local programs. Probation funds in the amount of $49 million reimburses local departments for probation services. This amount represents approximately twenty percent of actual costs of these services, rather than the 46.5% authorized in statute; local governments must provide funding for the balance. Funding for intensive supervision probation (ISP) in the amount of $6.3 million, and juvenile intensive supervision (JISP) in the amount of $1.3 million, is also provided to local departments. Approximately $15.2 million is also provided to support alternatives to incarceration programs.E. State Commission of Correction
The State Commission of Correction (SCOC) is responsible for the regulation and oversight of all correctional facilities in New York State. This responsibility encompasses 70 State correctional facilities, 63 county jails, the New York City correctional system comprising 18 facilities and approximately 200 police lockup facilities. SCOC has an annual budget of $2.4 million and a total staff of thirty-five positions.
|IV. Committee Accomplishments|
A. Drug Law Reform
During the 2004-05 Legislative Session, amendments to the State’s drug laws were enacted. This represents the first significant change in these laws since their enactment in 1973. The following outline identifies these reforms:
* Adoption of a determinate sentencing system which provides lower sentences for non-violent drug offenders and potentially higher sentences for offenders who have a violent prior felony conviction. Under this system, an offender would receive a single sentence from within a range established for each felony class. The offender who demonstrated good prison behavior would be required to serve 85% of that sentence and in addition would be subject to a discrete period of post-release supervision equivalent to parole.
* Elimination of the mandatory life sentences which were imposed for A-I and A-II offenders. Under the new sentencing law, A-I offenders will be sentenced to determinate sentences within a range of 8 to 20 years for first offenders, 12 to 24 years for non-violent second offenders and 15 to 30 years for offenders who have a violent prior conviction.
* Court-imposed drug treatment may be included as part of a sentence to prison, provided the offender is otherwise eligible for participation in the CASAT Program operated by the Department. The reform also provides for earlier access into this program.
* The weight thresholds for Class A-I and A-II felony possession of heroine and cocaine are doubled from four ounces to eight ounces for A-I offenses and from two ounces to four ounces for A-II offenses. Weight thresholds for A-I and A-II sale and attempted sale offenses have not been changed.
* Class A-I felony offenders serving sentences with a minimum range of 15 to 25 years and a mandatory maximum of life would be eligible to apply to their sentencing courts for conversion of their sentences to a sentence from within the new determinate sentence structure. Offenders who were denied resentencing by the sentencing court could appeal the denial to the appellate division.
* Drug offenders whose prison record and prior criminal history make them eligible to earn merit time, through which they receive a one-sixth reduction in their minimum term, will be eligible to earn an additional one-sixth reduction. In order to earn merit time, inmates are required to complete a GED (General Equivalency Diploma) program, earn a vocational trade certificate, complete a drug abuse treatment program or participate in a community work crew for a minimum of 400 hours.
* Drug offenders serving a term of parole supervision may be eligible for termination of supervision after one full year of successful supervision or after two years if they are A-I felons. Furthermore, parole supervision would be terminated for all parolees after two years of unrevoked supervision (or after three years for A-I felony offenders).B. Public Hearings
Local Conditional Release Law
The first of two public hearings concerning the future of New York’s local conditional release law was held on November 16, 2004 in New York City. Testimony was given by the Coordinator of Criminal Justice for the City of New York, representatives from several criminal justice programs and a representative of the New York City Legal Aid Society.
In response to a recent decision of the New York State Court of Appeals finding that the state’s death penalty statute was unconstitutional, the Assembly Committees on Correction, Codes and Judiciary held the first of a series of public hearings on capital punishment on December 18, 2004 in New York City.
|V. Issues to be Addressed in 2005|
A. Drug Law Reform
The modest accomplishments in reforming New York’s drug laws should be followed by efforts to restore judicial discretion which would provide the authority to place drug offenders in treatment programs, rather than prison. In addition, an effective system-wide treatment program in the state’s prison system, providing mandatory treatment where necessary, would reduce substance abuse relapse and thereby lower recidivism rates.B. Expansion of Vocational Training and Education Programs For Prison Inmates
The availability of training and education programs that prepare inmates for successful release into the community continues to be inadequate to meet the needs of inmates. It should be recognized that these programs serve the interests of public safety by preparing inmates to obtain and hold jobs, thereby preventing crime. Research findings consistently affirm that inmates who complete education and vocation training programs have lower rates of recidivism.C. Elimination of Disciplinary Confinement of Mentally Ill Prison Inmates
The Assembly’s efforts to enact legislation prohibiting the disciplinary confinement of seriously mentally ill prison inmates should continue and renewed efforts should be made to encourage the Senate and the Executive to support such legislation.
2004 SUMMARY SHEET
SUMMARY OF ACTION ON ALL BILLS
FINAL ACTION ON ASSEMBLY BILLS
BILLS REPORTED WITH OR WITHOUT AMENDMENT