The New York Association of Pretrial Service Agencies (NYAPSA) is an organization of professionals who are dedicated to the advancement of pretrial-release services and community-based, non-incarcerative alternatives for the disposition of criminal cases.
In 1978, the pretrial practitioners in New York State formalized their network by establishing the New York Association of Pretrial Service Agencies (NYAPSA). The founders of the Association saw a need to plan a strategy for addressing jail overcrowding, and to demonstrate the effect that Pretrial Release and Pretrial Diversion programs could have on the quality of justice in New York State. Collectively, the expertise of individual practitioners, politicians, members of the judiciary, and criminal justice planners was brought together by NYAPSA to address issues that directly affect the delivery and expansion of pretrial-release services in the state.
NYAPSA's history of networking and involvement in statewide issues is rich. Its association has been a state and national leader in the pretrial field. NYAPSA has worked with the following organizations to provide training, respond to legislation, and to provide an open forum for debates on important issues:
- National Association of Pretrial Service Agencies (NAPSA)
- New York State Association of Counties (NYSAC)
- New York State Defender's Association (NYSDA)
- The New York State Office of Probation and Correctional Alternatives (OPCA)
- Pretrial Services Resource Center (PSRC)
NYAPSA was very involved in writing the National Standards and Goals for Pretrial Release and Pretrial Diversion. These standards were studied by an advisory committee established by OPCA and were followed by statewide hearings to establish standards for the new ATI Pretrial Release programs. The standards produced were very similar to our national pretrial standards.
NYAPSA's Board of Directors is comprised of individuals from each of the four major geographic regions of New York State. They represent a diverse group of active members.
WHAT ARE PRETRIAL-RELEASE SERVICES?
Pretrial-release services began as an outgrowth of the bail-reform movement here in New York State. In the early 1960's, the Vera Institute of Justice in New York City found that many indigent defendants were held in detention for long periods on low bail.
The Manhattan Bail Project (which was created and overseen by the Vera Institute of Justice) found that most pretrial defendants with community ties, a job, and family roots could be released on their own recognizance (ROR), without bail, with relatively low failure-to-appear risk. In fact, defendants released on ROR returned to court as often as, or more likely than, those released on bail. The project was very successful and became the foundation for hundreds of pretrial programs nationwide.
With the realization that some defendants needed more than just supervision to prevent a return to crime, diversion and alternative sentencing projects were later developed. Today, pretrial services use a full spectrum of resources in their supervision and monitoring models, including: employment, education, mental health, shelter, and substance-abuse treatment.
Diversion, alternative sentencing, and substance-abuse treatment and employment programs are all outgrowths of the pretrial-service strategy.
Pretrial-service programs are operated by both nonprofit organizations and probation departments, and are proven cost-effective ways to assist courts and law-enforcement officials. This is done by screening, evaluating, and monitoring defendants who can safely be released back to the community.
WHAT IS THE ROLE OF PRETRIAL-SERVICE AGENCIES?
Pretrial-service agencies are designed to intervene and work with defendants at any point from arrest through final disposition. Services include: providing the court with verified information about defendants to help in pretrial release or sentencing decisions; providing supervision and monitoring of defendants upon release; securing substance abuse treatment and employment, education, shelter, and health services.
Pretrial-service agencies are important to New York State and its communities because they play a role in guaranteeing some of the fundamental justice issues that this country was built on. New York State has experienced an explosion in the number of people held in local jails and state prison. Cities, counties, and the State are faced with the staggering cost of prison cell construction. Pretrial service agencies provide the information needed for judges to make reasonable decisions regarding pretrial release and incarceration.
Pretrial-service agencies provide the Court with pertinent information, while offering a defendant a chance to address the issues that brought him or her to the criminal-justice system.
Pretrial programs emphasize the defendant's obligation to return to court and to comply with the conditions of sentence or release. Defendants who are employed can keep their jobs and, therefore, continue to support their families and contribute to their communities. This enforces a sense of personal responsibility which is not available in incarceration.
Pretrial-service agencies provide information to the Court so that it can decide who can be safely released back into the community.
In an era of severe budgetary belt-tightening and reduction in public services, pretrial service agencies save Counties and the State millions of dollars annually. Pretrial services are much less expensive than incarceration, and are more likely to offer rehabilitative services. Costs are reduced in many ways:
- by averting needless incarceration of low-risk defendants;
- by monitoring defendants and discouraging misconduct;
- by assuring on-time court appearance;
- by breaking the cycle of criminality through early intervention;
- by freeing prison space for serious and violent offenders.
PRETRIAL SERVICES MAKE SENSE!