Department of Corrections and Community Supervision

History of Parole in New York State

In 1817, the nation's first "good time" law, rewarding prison inmates with time off their period of imprisonment for good behavior, was approved in New York State.

In 1876, New York State passed a system of "indeterminate" sentences setting a minimum and maximum term and permitting parole release of those who had served the minimum; those selected by prison officials for parole were required to report monthly to citizen volunteers known as "Guardians."

On July 1, 1930, the Division of Parole was established in the Executive Department. A full-time Board of Parole was created within the Division and given the responsibility, formerly held by the Department of Corrections, for decisions on parole releases from prisons. Jurisdiction over releases from training schools and correctional institutions for mentally disabled prisoners was added to the Parole Board's authority in 1945.

A 1967 law extended the Board's release authority to persons incarcerated in local reformatories, transferred the functions of the New York City Parole Commission to the New York State Division of Parole and gave the agency control over the conditional release of inmates under definite sentences.

In 1971, the Division of Parole was consolidated with the Department of Corrections to form the Department of Correctional Services (DOCS). In the wake of the Attica Prison riot and demands from the courts and other quarters that the procedural rights of parolees be protected, Parole in 1977 was again established as an autonomous agency within the Executive Department. The same reform act mandated adoption of formal release guidelines to eliminate any perception of arbitrariness.

A 1978 law made the Division of Parole responsible for the release decision for juveniles convicted of certain serious felonies and for their post-release community supervision. With the surge in incarcerations in the 1980s and 1990s, the Division of Parole expanded significantly, as did the array of substance abuse treatment and other services available to help releasees maintain a law-abiding life style.

The Sentencing Reform Act of 1998, commonly referred to as Jenna's Law, added a new dimension to the Division through the elimination of discretionary release for all violent felony offenders while mandating court-imposed periods of post-release supervision of 1.5 to 5 years that the offender must serve after completing the period of incarceration imposed by the court.