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Merit Time Program Summary, October 1997-December 2001

NCJ Number
Date Published
26 pages
This report provides a summary and evaluation of the New York State Department of Correctional Services, Merit Time Program, releasing certain non-violent inmates to parole supervision earlier than they would normally be released, without creating a risk to the community. Information covers hearings from October 1997 through December 2001.
In 1997, legislation authorizing Merit Time was instituted into New York law. This legislation allows inmates serving prison terms with a minimum sentence greater than 1-year for certain non-violent crimes to earn a possible one-sixth reduction of the minimum term if they have achieved certain significant programmatic objectives and have not engaged in any serious disciplinary infractions. This report focuses on inmates who were released to parole prior to their parole eligibility date as a result of being approved as a Merit Time release by the Parole Board. Between October 1997 and December 2001, there were 17, 224 merit hearings resulting in 11,828 inmates (69 percent) being approved for merit release. Of these approvals, 11,123 were released prior to their parole eligibility date. However, not all of the 11,123 were released by December 2001. This accounted for 556 released between January 2002 and June 2002. This report was based on the remaining 10,557. During the October 1997 and December 2001 time frame, more than 82 percent of the Merit Time releases were committed for drug offenses. A typical merit release was most likely to be a male from New York City and approximately 37 years of age at the time of release. Between October 1997 and December 2000, the 7,647 inmates released due to Merit Time approval had a return-to-custody rate that was the next to lowest rate of all of the comparison groups. With respect to the 2-year follow-up the results were similar and for the 3-year follow-up a similar pattern was identified. Based on the total number of merit releases (10,557) generated since the beginning of the Merit Time program (October 1997 through December 2001), there has been a substantial savings to the Department in terms of both operating and construction costs. Tables