The concept of Earned Eligibility is based upon the premise that incarcerated individuals successfully participating in assigned programs will be more likely to make a successful transition to their family and the community upon release. Incarcerated individuals granted Certificates of Earned Eligibility prior to their Parole Board appearance shall be granted release at the expiration of their minimum sentence or as authorized under the Shock Incarceration Program unless the Board of Parole determines their release is not compatible with the welfare of society.
Merit Time can be granted to incarcerated individuals serving sentences for certain non-violent crimes who have exhibited an acceptable disciplinary history and have achieved significant programmatic benchmarks. These individuals may be granted a one-sixth reduction off their minimum sentence. Merit Time candidates must have successfully pursued their earned eligibility/program plan in addition to having met specific Merit Time criteria.
Presumptive Release allows incarcerated individuals serving indeterminate sentences for certain non-violent crimes who have no history of violence to be released to community supervision without appearing before the Parole Board, provided they have maintained positive disciplinary and program records and have not filed a frivolous lawsuit.
Supplemental Merit Time allows incarcerated individuals serving indeterminate sentences for Class A-II through Class E drug felony offenses committed prior to December 27, 2004 to qualify for an additional one-sixth reduction off their minimum sentence in addition to the conventional one-sixth Merit Time benefit.
Limited Credit Time Allowances (LCTA), effective in 2009, is a six-month benefit for most offenders who are not eligible for traditional Merit Time. Certain offenders serving either a determinate or indeterminate sentence for a crime that is not a Merit eligible offense may be eligible to earn a six-month LCTA benefit against their sentence; this is provided that certain significant programmatic accomplishments have been achieved (completion of one of 12 LCTA program criteria), and they have successfully pursued their earned eligibility/program plan and have not committed a serious disciplinary infraction or maintained an overall poor institutional record, and have not filed a frivolous lawsuit(s).
Program goals include:
- Ensuring that all incarcerated individuals have program plans that address their needs in an appropriate manner.
- Determining which eligible individuals should be issued Certificates of Earned Eligibility prior to their Parole Board appearances.
- Determining which eligible individuals should be issued Certificates of Presumptive Release and, therefore, released to parole supervision without appearing before the Parole Board.
- Determining which eligible individuals should be issued Certificates of Supplemental Merit Time, Merit Time, or LCTA and, therefore, become eligible for early release to the community, utilizing either the Presumptive Release process or a conventional Parole Board appearance.
The Earned Eligibility Program, established through legislation in July 1987 and defined in Correction Law Section 805, applies to all incarcerated individuals serving an indeterminate sentence of eight years or less. The law also mandates a work and treatment plan (program/earned eligibility plan) for all offenders.
Merit Time, established in 1997 and defined in Correction Law Section 803, allows for certain non-violent offenders serving indeterminate sentences to earn a possible one-sixth reduction in their minimum term if they have achieved certain programmatic objectives and have avoided serious disciplinary charges.
Additionally, as a result of the Drug Law Reform Act of 2004, individuals with determinate sentences for Class A-II through Class E felonies as defined in Article 220 and 220 of the Penal Law may receive a one-seventh reduction of the term imposed by the court.
In order to earn Merit Time, offenders must successfully perform and pursue their assigned Earned Eligibility Plan or Program Plan while serving their current sentence, and either:
- Earn a high school equivalency (HSE); or
- Complete alcohol and substance abuse treatment; or
- Participate in a vocational trade program for at least six months and earn one job title; or
- Perform 400 hours or more of service as part of a community work crew/outside assignment.
Presumptive Release for nonviolent offenders was enacted into law by the Legislature, effective April 1, 2003, as a part of Chapter 62 of the Laws of 2003. Incarcerated individuals eligible for Presumptive Release are, by legal definition, nonviolent (Correction Law 806). Eligibility is based on an individual's entire criminal history, alien status, as well as the status of outstanding warrants, detainers, commitments and open charges.
In addition, Presumptive Release eligibility is similar to the established eligibility requirements of the Earned Eligibility and Merit Time programs.
The Supplemental Merit Time allowance was established by the Drug Law Reform Act of 2004 and allows for eligible offenders to qualify for an additional one-sixth reduction of their minimum sentence if they meet all of the existing eligibility requirements of Earned Eligibility (Correction Law Section 805) and Merit Time (Correction Law Section 803), and if they either satisfy:
- Two of the four Merit Time program objectives set forth in Correction Law Section 803 (1)(d); or
- One of the four Merit Time programs and successfully maintain employment while in a Work Release program for a period of not less than three months.
Pursuant to Correction Law 803-b, LCTA for eligible offenders serving an indeterminate sentence with a maximum life term will result in consideration for parole release six months prior to their initial parole eligibility date. In the event such eligible offenders have appeared before their initial Parole Board interview and been given a reappearance date and thereafter are issued an LCTA certificate, then that notification will be forwarded to the Parole Board.
The Parole Board may then consider this achievement at the offender’s next Parole Board reappearance. In the case of any other eligible offender serving a determinate sentence, or an indeterminate sentence whose maximum expiration is not life, such offenders may qualify for LCTA Conditional Release six months before the regular Conditional Release date.
In order to earn LCTA, eligible offenders must have completed one of the 12 significant program accomplishments listed below during their current term of incarceration.
- A minimum of two years of successful participation in college programming.
- A Master’s of Professional Studies degree issued at Sing Sing Correctional Facility.
- A minimum of two years successful participation as an Inmate Program Associate (IPA).
- Certification from the New York State Department of Labor for successful participation in an apprenticeship program.
- A minimum of two years of successful work as an Inmate Hospice Aide.
- A minimum of two years of successful completion in the Puppies Behind Bars Program.
- Successfully worked in the Division of Correctional Industries Optical Program for a minimum of two years and received a certification as an Optician from the American Board of Opticianry.
- Received an Asbestos Handling certificate from the New York State Department of Labor and a minimum of 18 months work in the Division of Correctional Industries Asbestos Abatement Program as a Hazardous Materials Removal Worker or a Hazardous Materials Removal Group Leader.
- Successfully completed the course curriculum and passed the minimum competency screening process performance exam for Sign Language Interpreter and a minimum of one year of work as a Sign Language Interpreter for deaf offenders.
- Successfully participated in the Vocational Culinary Arts Program/Food Service for a minimum of two consecutive years; earned a Culinary Arts Program/Food Service completion job title listed on the Employment Readiness Title Chart; and successfully passed the National Restaurant Association's recognized ServSafe examination and received a ServSafe certificate.
- Successfully completed a 490-hour New York State Department of Motor Vehicles training program, working for an additional period of no less than 21 months cumulative participation in an Industries Worker assignment, and earned the Customer Service Representative job title listed on the Employment Readiness Title Chart at either Greene or Bedford Hill Correctional facilities.
- Successfully worked in the Food Production Center at Mohawk Correctional Facility, completed a minimum of 800 hours of training in one of the seven job titles listed below, earned a Food Production Center certificate, and worked for a period of no less than 18 months at the Food Production Center.
Earned Eligibility: Eligible individuals will be evaluated prior to their Parole Board appearance. The determination notice will be delivered to the offender prior to the Parole Board appearance.
Merit Time: Eligible individuals will be evaluated prior to their Merit Time Parole Board appearance. Determinations will be based on an evaluation of the eligible individual's program performance, progress and attendance as well as overall record of institutional behavior. The Merit Time determination notice will be delivered to the offender approximately one week prior to the scheduled Parole Board appearance.
Presumptive Release Initial EEP: Eligible individuals will be evaluated prior to their Initial Parole Board appearance. Determinations are based on evaluation of the eligible individual's program performance, progress and attendance, as well as overall record of institutional behavior. In addition, a thorough review of their criminal history will occur to determine appropriateness for Presumptive Release. A denial for Presumptive Release is not an indication of their suitability for possible release on community supervision. It is, however, a determination that the parole release decision can best be made following a personal appearance before the Board of Parole.
Presumptive Release Merit: Eligible individuals will be evaluated prior to their Merit Parole Board appearance. Determinations will be based on evaluation of the eligible individual’s program performance, progress and attendance, as well as overall record of institutional behavior. In addition, a thorough review of their criminal history will occur to determine appropriateness for Presumptive Release.
Supplemental Merit Time: Eligible individuals will be evaluated prior to their Supplemental Merit Parole Board appearance.
Presumptive Release Supplemental Merit: Eligible individuals will be evaluated prior to their Supplemental Merit Parole Board appearance. Determinations are based on evaluation of the eligible individual’s program performance, progress and attendance, as well as overall record of institutional behavior. In addition, a thorough review of their criminal history will occur to determine appropriateness for Presumptive Release.
Limited Credit Time Allowances: Eligible individuals will be screened to determine reviewability seven months prior to the LCTA eligibility date. As two years of participation is necessary to satisfy LCTA program requirement, eligible individuals will only be screened when they have been in DOCCS custody for two years. Individuals who are reviewable for LCTA initiate the process by completing and submitting an LCTA application. Facility staff review each application to determine if the offender has satisfied the LCTA criteria based upon program performance, progress and attendance. Individuals who are recommended at the facility level to be issued LCTA receive a determination following a Central Office review process. Those who are denied at the facility level have the option to appeal the LCTA denial to the Commissioner.
All facilities conduct review of eligible offenders.