Bill S1377-2013

Relates to controlled substances and indeterminate sentences; to the expansion of merit time; repealer

Relates to controlled substances and indeterminate sentences; relates to the expansion of merit time and repeals provisions relating to the allowance of limited credit time for inmates.

Details

Actions

  • Jan 8, 2014: REFERRED TO CRIME VICTIMS, CRIME AND CORRECTION
  • Apr 22, 2013: DEFEATED IN CRIME VICTIMS, CRIME AND CORRECTION
  • Mar 11, 2013: NOTICE OF COMMITTEE CONSIDERATION - REQUESTED
  • Jan 9, 2013: REFERRED TO CRIME VICTIMS, CRIME AND CORRECTION

Votes

VOTE: COMMITTEE VOTE: - Crime Victims, Crime and Correction - Apr 22, 2013
Ayes (4): Hassell-Thompson, Montgomery, Hoylman, Rivera
Ayes W/R (1): Peralta
Nays (7): Gallivan, Carlucci, DeFrancisco, Griffo, Maziarz, Nozzolio, Ritchie
Excused (1): Little

Memo

BILL NUMBER:S1377

TITLE OF BILL: An act to amend the correction law, chapter 738 of the laws of 2004 amending the correction law and other laws relating to controlled substances and indeterminate sentences, the executive law, in relation to merit time, and to repeal section 803-b of the correction law relating to limited credit time allowances

PURPOSE OR GENERAL IDEA OF BILL: To expand eligibility in the merit time allowance program.

SUMMARY OF SPECIFIC PROVISIONS:

Section 1 of the bill amends section 803 of the correction law to allow all inmates, except those serving a sentence of life imprisonment without parole, murder in the first degree, incest, an offense defined in article two hundred sixty-three of the penal law, an act of terrorism, aggravated harassment of an employee by an inmate, or an attempt or conspiracy to commit any such offense, to earn merit time Allowance.

The merit time allowance would be one-sixth of an indeterminate and one-seventh of a determinate sentence. This section of the bill also expands the criteria that a person in the custody of the Department of Correctional Services (DOGS) may meet in order to earn merit time.

Section 2, 3, and 4 of the bill are conforming changes.

Sections 3 through 7 make technical changes to avoid unintended automatic repeal of merit time eligibility for certain offenders

Section 9 makes a conforming change in the Executive Law. Section 10 of the bill is the effective date.

JUSTIFICATION: The Merit Time program allows inmates who excel, attain educational and vocational degrees, and maintain a stellar disciplinary record the opportunity to present their case to the Parole Board earlier than they otherwise would have. The program promotes the rehabilitation of inmates, and thereby provides several significant benefits. Specifically, the program improves discipline within prison, enables the Parole Board to make better evaluations of an inmate's ability to reintegrate into society, and saves the State millions of dollars. For these reasons the Governor's Commission on Sentencing Reform recommended the program be expanded to allow violent offenders to participate. This bill accomplishes that goal.

THE MERIT TIME PROGRAM PROMOTES REHABILITATION The program was first instituted in 1997, and has been exceedingly successful. The results are clear. Merit Time motivates inmates to take ownership of their future, and to better themselves in order to prove that they are worthy of release by the Parole Board, rather than simply waiting out their maximum sentence until the State is required to grant their release. Those who successfully complete the

Merit Time program and are released by the Parole Board show far better recidivism rates than those who served out their maximum sentence. Since 1997, only 6.1% of inmates who completed the Merit Time program were convicted on another crime within two years, as opposed to 16.5% return for new offense rate for all releases since records have been kept. These men and women have made permanent and profound changes in their lives. They left prison rehabilitated.

This bill expands on the successes of the Merit Time program. When the original program was instituted in the late 20th century, violent offenders were prohibited from participation, due to the fear that these individuals were the "worst of the worst." It is true that those who cause physical harm to another person, or take a life, deserve greater punishment than those who commit other crimes. But it is false to presume that a person who committed a violent crime is less able to be rehabilitated than a person who committed a nonviolent crime.

Indeed, the opposite is true: The most serious violent offenders have a lower recidivism rate than every category of non-violent offender. Of the 585 most serious violent felony offenders who were released to parole supervision for the first time between 2005 and 2008, none has returned to prison for a new crime. Extending merit time to violent offenders makes sense. Because violent offenders are better able to rehabilitate themselves and live law abiding lives after they are reintegrated into the community, it is well worth allowing them to participate in the Merit Time program. There are several other benefits as well.

THE MERIT TIME PROGRAM IMPROVES DISCIPLINE IN PRISON Maintaining safety in prisons is directly related to the balanced ability to punish negative behavior and poor program participation while rewarding positive behavior and good program participation. An inmate who is able to affirmatively take responsibility for their management programs, job training classes, high school and college courses, all while maintaining a superior disciplinary record, will behave better than an inmate who has no such opportunities or incentives. The Merit Time program discourages inmates from breaking the rules, and therefore facilitates the effective administration of the prison. Indeed, the program has been shown to reduce violence in prisons. This bill facilitates those positive outcomes by expanding the eligibility for the merit time program.

THE MERIT TIME PROGRAM SERVES AS AN EVALUATIVE TOOL For the Parole Board to accurately assess the risk posed by an offender's reentry into the community, they must understand the personal deficiencies in that inmate's character that led to their incarceration, the actions taken by that inmate to rehabilitate themselves while incarcerated, and have a way to measure the results. The Merit Time program provides that information, and the Parole Board is thereby enabled to make an informed decision when considering the application of those inmates. This is especially significant in the case of violent offenders, who we want to be sure are truly rehabilitated before they are released.

THE MERIT TIME PROGRAM SAVES THE STATE HUNDREDS OF MILLIONS OF DOLLARS

It costs over $50,000 (medical and capital construction costs included) to confine an inmate for one year. New York State taxpayers benefit when prison is reserved for offenders who pose a risk to the public. The Merit Time Program reduces incarceration costs by limiting the time that persons who have proven their rehabilitation remain in prison, and reducing the astronomical expense associated with recidivism. More effective and less costly prison management, and control of prisoners with less pressure on correctional officers, are corollary benefits of good rehabilitation programs and earned rehabilitative incentives.

We should therefore work to expand successful programs that encourage inmates to become better people, and demonstrate that they are prepared to thrive and provide a benefit to society after their release. The Department of Corrections Services estimates that the Merit Time program has saved the State nearly $384 million dollars over the course often years by graduating people those who have proven their worth.

Increasing incarceration while ignoring more effective approaches imposes a heavy burden upon courts, corrections and communities, while providing no impact on crime. Should this legislature expand eligibility to violent offenders who have shown that they can reenter society safely, the State will save tens of millions more.

In order to achieve the desired public safety outcome, the requirements for an expanded Merit Time Program for offenders with a history of violent behavior must be rigorous and designed to promote life changing behaviors. As proposed under this legislation only offenders participating in exceptional programming aimed at permanently changing antisocial behaviors can successfully complete the Merit Time Program.

As a result many will not be eligible for the credit. Merit time credit is not constituted as a right. It is only a privilege incentive afforded to those who exhibit exceptional rehabilitative behaviors and adjustment. An individual who continues to demonstrate counterproductive behavior will not be eligible for merit time credit, and the Parole Board will take longer to consider their case.

PRIOR LEGISLATIVE HISTORY: Senate: Passed Senate Committee on Crime Victims, Crime and Correction in 2010; Referred to Senate Codes Committee 2011-2012: S.338 Died in Committee

FISCAL IMPLICATIONS FOR STATE AND LOCAL GOVERNMENTS: The bill will result in savings to the state because the early release of inmates who earn merit time will result in a continued decline in the prison population.

EFFECTIVE DATE: 90th day after becoming law.


Text

STATE OF NEW YORK ________________________________________________________________________ 1377 2013-2014 Regular Sessions IN SENATE (PREFILED) January 9, 2013 ___________
Introduced by Sens. MONTGOMERY, DILAN -- read twice and ordered printed, and when printed to be committed to the Committee on Crime Victims, Crime and Correction AN ACT to amend the correction law, chapter 738 of the laws of 2004 amending the correction law and other laws relating to controlled substances and indeterminate sentences, the executive law, in relation to merit time, and to repeal section 803-b of the correction law relating to limited credit time allowances THE PEOPLE OF THE STATE OF NEW YORK, REPRESENTED IN SENATE AND ASSEM- BLY, DO ENACT AS FOLLOWS: Section 1. Subparagraphs (i), (ii) and (iv) of paragraph (d) of subdi- vision 1 of section 803 of the correction law, as added by section 7 of chapter 738 of the laws of 2004, are amended to read as follows: (i) Except as provided in subparagraph (ii) of this paragraph, every person under the custody of the department or confined in a facility in the department of mental hygiene serving an indeterminate sentence of imprisonment with a minimum period of one year or more or a determinate sentence of imprisonment of one year or more [imposed pursuant to section 70.70 or 70.71 of the penal law,] may earn a merit time allow- ance. (ii) Such merit time allowance shall not be available to any person serving [an indeterminate] A sentence [authorized for an A-I felony offense, other than an A-I felony offense defined in article two hundred twenty of the penal law, or any sentence imposed for a violent felony offense as defined in section 70.02 of the penal law, manslaughter in the second degree, vehicular manslaughter in the second degree, vehicu- lar manslaughter in the first degree, criminally negligent homicide,] IMPOSED FOR MURDER IN THE FIRST DEGREE AS DEFINED IN SECTION 125.27 OF THE PENAL LAW, an offense defined in article one hundred thirty of the penal law, incest, [or] an offense defined in article two hundred
sixty-three of the penal law, [or] AN ACT OF TERRORISM AS DEFINED IN ARTICLE FOUR HUNDRED NINETY OF THE PENAL LAW, aggravated harassment of an employee by an inmate, OR AN ATTEMPT OR CONSPIRACY TO COMMIT ANY SUCH OFFENSE. (iv) Such merit time allowance may be granted when an inmate success- fully participates in the work and treatment program assigned pursuant to section eight hundred five of this article and when such inmate [obtains a] ACHIEVES ONE OF THE FOLLOWING: (1) COMPLETES HIS OR HER general equivalency diploma, HIS OR HER EDUCATIONAL REQUIREMENTS AS DETERMINED BY THE DEPARTMENT OR SATISFACTORILY COMPLETES COURSEWORK SPONSORED BY AN INSTITUTION OF HIGHER LEARNING REPRESENTING A SEMESTER OF ACADEMIC TRAINING; (2) COMPLETES an alcohol and substance abuse treatment [certificate, a vocational trade certificate following at least six months of vocational programming or performs] PROGRAM, OR COMPLETES A COMPARABLE PROGRAM OF A DIFFERENT TYPE AS DETERMINED BY THE DEPARTMENT, INCLUDING, BUT NOT LIMITED TO, ANGER MANAGEMENT, FAMILY VIOLENCE, OR PARENTING; (3) COMPLETES A VOCATIONAL TRAINING PROGRAM OR A COMPARABLE AND EQUIVALENT TRAINING PROGRAM AS DETERMINED BY THE DEPART- MENT; (4) PERFORMS SATISFACTORILY FOR AT LEAST SIX MONTHS IN A SKILLED JOB ASSIGNMENT, INCLUDING BUT NOT LIMITED TO, INMATE PROGRAM AIDE (IPA), LAW LIBRARY CLERK, MEDICAL/INFIRMARY AIDE, CHILDREN'S CENTER AIDE, AND FOOD SERVICE WORKER; OR (5) COMPLETES at least four hundred hours of service as part of a community work crew. Such allowance shall be withheld for any serious disciplinary infrac- tion or upon a judicial determination that the person, while an inmate, commenced or continued a civil action, proceeding or claim that was found to be frivolous as defined in subdivision (c) of section eight thousand three hundred three-a of the civil practice law and rules, or an order of a federal court pursuant to rule 11 of the federal rules of civil procedure imposing sanctions in an action commenced by a person, while an inmate, against a state agency, officer or employee. S 2. Subparagraphs (i), (ii) and (iv) of paragraph (d) of subdivision 1 of section 803 of the correction law, as added by section 10-a of chapter 738 of the laws of 2004, are amended to read as follows: (i) Except as provided in subparagraph (ii) of this paragraph, every person under the custody of the department or confined in a facility in the department of mental hygiene serving an indeterminate sentence of imprisonment with a minimum period of one year or more or a determinate sentence of imprisonment of one year or more [imposed pursuant to section 70.70 or 70.71 of the penal law,] may earn a merit time allow- ance. (ii) Such merit time allowance shall not be available to any person serving [an indeterminate] A sentence [authorized for an A-I felony offense, other than an A-I felony offense defined in article two hundred twenty of the penal law, or any sentence imposed for a violent felony offense as defined in section 70.02 of the penal law, manslaughter in the second degree, vehicular manslaughter in the second degree, vehicu- lar manslaughter in the first degree, criminally negligent homicide,] IMPOSED FOR MURDER IN THE FIRST DEGREE AS DEFINED IN SECTION 125.27 OF THE PENAL LAW, an offense defined in article one hundred thirty of the penal law, incest, [or] an offense defined in article two hundred sixty-three of the penal law, [or] AN ACT OF TERRORISM AS DEFINED IN ARTICLE FOUR HUNDRED NINETY OF THE PENAL LAW, aggravated harassment of an employee by an inmate, OR AN ATTEMPT OR CONSPIRACY TO COMMIT ANY SUCH OFFENSE.
(iv) Such merit time allowance may be granted when an inmate success- fully participates in the work and treatment program assigned pursuant to section eight hundred five of this article and when such inmate [obtains a] ACHIEVES ONE OF THE FOLLOWING: (1) COMPLETES HIS OR HER general equivalency diploma, HIS OR HER EDUCATIONAL REQUIREMENTS AS DETERMINED BY THE DEPARTMENT OR SATISFACTORILY COMPLETES COURSEWORK SPONSORED BY AN INSTITUTION OF HIGHER LEARNING REPRESENTING A SEMESTER OF ACADEMIC TRAINING; (2) COMPLETES an alcohol and substance abuse treatment [certificate, a vocational trade certificate following at least six months of vocational programming or performs] PROGRAM, OR COMPLETES A COMPARABLE PROGRAM OF A DIFFERENT TYPE AS DETERMINED BY THE DEPARTMENT, INCLUDING, BUT NOT LIMITED TO, ANGER MANAGEMENT, FAMILY VIOLENCE, OR PARENTING; (3) COMPLETES A VOCATIONAL TRAINING PROGRAM OR A COMPARABLE AND EQUIVALENT TRAINING PROGRAM AS DETERMINED BY THE DEPART- MENT; (4) PERFORMS SATISFACTORILY FOR AT LEAST SIX MONTHS IN A SKILLED JOB ASSIGNMENT, INCLUDING BUT NOT LIMITED TO, INMATE PROGRAM AIDE (IPA), LAW LIBRARY CLERK, MEDICAL/INFIRMARY AIDE, CHILDREN'S CENTER AIDE, AND FOOD SERVICE WORKER; OR (5) COMPLETES at least four hundred hours of service as part of a community work crew. Such allowance shall be withheld for any serious disciplinary infrac- tion or upon a judicial determination that the person, while an inmate, commenced or continued a civil action, proceeding or claim that was found to be frivolous as defined in subdivision (c) of section eight thousand three hundred three-a of the civil practice law and rules, or an order of a federal court pursuant to rule 11 of the federal rules of civil procedure imposing sanctions in an action commenced by a person, while an inmate, against a state agency, officer or employee. S 3. Subparagraph (v) of paragraph (d) of subdivision 1 of section 803 of the correction law, as added by section 7 of chapter 738 of the laws of 2004, is amended to read as follows: (v) The provisions of this paragraph shall apply to persons in custody serving an indeterminate sentence on the effective date of this para- graph as well as to persons sentenced to an indeterminate sentence on and after the effective date of this paragraph and prior to September first, two thousand five and to persons sentenced to a determinate sentence [prior to September first, two thousand eleven] for a felony as defined in article two hundred twenty or two hundred twenty-one of the penal law. S 4. Subparagraph (v) of paragraph (d) of subdivision 1 of section 803 of the correction law, as added by section 10-a of chapter 738 of the laws of 2004, is amended to read as follows: (v) The provisions of this paragraph shall apply to persons in custody serving an indeterminate sentence on the effective date of this para- graph as well as to persons sentenced to an indeterminate sentence on and after the effective date of this paragraph and prior to September first, two thousand five and to persons sentenced to a determinate sentence [prior to September first, two thousand eleven] for a felony as defined in article two hundred twenty or two hundred twenty-one of the penal law. S 5. Paragraph (g) of subdivision 2-a of section 803 of the correction law, as added by section 9 of chapter 738 of the laws of 2004, is amended to read as follows: (g) The provisions of this subdivision shall apply to persons in custody serving an indeterminate sentence on the effective date of this subdivision as well as to persons sentenced to an indeterminate sentence on and after the effective date of this subdivision and prior to Septem-
ber first, two thousand five and to persons sentenced to a determinate sentence [prior to September first, two thousand eleven] for a felony as defined in article two hundred twenty or two hundred twenty-one of the penal law. S 6. Paragraph (g) of subdivision 2-a of section 803 of the correction law, as added by section 11 of chapter 738 of the laws of 2004, is amended to read as follows: (g) The provisions of this subdivision shall apply to persons in custody serving an indeterminate sentence on the effective date of this subdivision as well as to persons sentenced to an indeterminate sentence on and after the effective date of this subdivision and prior to Septem- ber first, two thousand five and to persons sentenced to a determinate sentence [prior to September first, two thousand eleven] for a felony as defined in article two hundred twenty or two hundred twenty-one of the penal law. S 7. Section 803-b of the correction law is REPEALED. S 8. Subdivision (c-1) of section 41 of chapter 738 of the laws of 2004 amending the correction law and other laws relating to controlled substances and indeterminate sentences is amended to read as follows: (c-1) the provisions of sections seven, eight, nine, ten and ten-a of this act, and subdivision 2-a of section 803 of the correction law, as added by section eleven of this act shall apply to persons in custody serving an indeterminate sentence on the effective date of such provisions as well as to persons sentenced to an indeterminate sentence on and after the effective date of such provisions and prior to Septem- ber 1, 2005 and to persons sentenced to a determinate sentence [prior to September 1, 2011] for a felony as defined in article 220 or 221 of the penal law; S 9. Clause (C) of subparagraph (i) of paragraph (e) of subdivision 1 of section 632-a of the executive law, as amended by section 24 of part A-1 of chapter 56 of the laws of 2010, is amended to read as follows: (C) [an offense for which a merit time allowance may not be received against the sentence pursuant to paragraph (d) of subdivision one of section eight hundred three of the correction law] AN A-I FELONY OFFENSE, OTHER THAN AN A-I FELONY OFFENSE DEFINED IN ARTICLE TWO HUNDRED TWENTY OF THE PENAL LAW, MANSLAUGHTER IN THE SECOND DEGREE, VEHICULAR MANSLAUGHTER IN THE SECOND DEGREE, VEHICULAR MANSLAUGHTER IN THE FIRST DEGREE, CRIMINALLY NEGLIGENT HOMICIDE, AN OFFENSE DEFINED IN ARTICLE ONE HUNDRED THIRTY OF THE PENAL LAW, INCEST, AN OFFENSE DEFINED IN ARTICLE TWO HUNDRED SIXTY-THREE OF THE PENAL LAW, AGGRAVATED HARASSMENT OF AN EMPLOYEE BY AN INMATE; S 10. This act shall take effect on the ninetieth day after it shall have become a law and shall apply to: (i) persons in custody serving an indeterminate or determinate sentence or sentences on the effective date; (ii) persons sentenced to an indeterminate or determinate sentence or sentences on or after the effective date; and (iii) persons who have not completed service of an indeterminate or determinate sentence or sentences imposed prior to the effective date; provided, however, that the amendments to section 803 of the correction law made by sections one, three, and five of this act shall be subject to the expiration and reversion of such section pursuant to subdivision d of section 74 of chapter 3 of the laws of 1995, as amended, when upon such date the provisions of sections two, four and six of this act shall take effect.

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