General Frequently Asked Questions

  1. What is the difference between probation and parole?
  2. Where can I find a directory of Alternatives to Incarceration Programs funded by the NYS Division of Probation and Correctional Alternatives (OPCA) by county?
  3. Where are the county probation departments located?
  4. What is a "Certificate of Relief from Civil Disabilities"?
  5. What are the "General Conditions of Probation?"
  6. What is "Interim Probation Supervision"?
  7. What is a "split sentence"?
  8. What are the hours of community service that a probationer can be ordered to complete?
  9. Is an offender required to work while under probation supervision?
  10. What are PINS - Persons in Need of Supervision?
  11. What are JD - Juvenile Delinquents?
  12. Where does someone go to obtain legal advice or representation?
  13. Where does someone go to obtain legal advice or representation if they cannot afford to hire an attorney?
  14. Where can someone obtain information regarding domestic violence?
  15. Who must register with the State's Sex Offender Registry (SOR)?
  16. How long will an offender be registered?
  17. What happens if a required offender fails to register on the Sex Offender Registry?
  18. Where can I find more information about the Sex Offender Registry and the Sex Offender Registration Act (SORA)?
  19. Can a probationer sentenced to probation supervision in New York State move out of New York State?
  20. What information will probation officers require of individuals sentenced to probation?
  21. How does one file a formal complaint about a probation officer, the probation department or any other OPCA funded Alternatives to Incarceration program?
  22. What types of Alternatives to Incarceration programs receive funding from the NYS Office of Probation and Correctional Alternatives?
  23. Does OPCA fund programs that are specific defendants and offenders with mental illness?
  24. How can I become a probation officer?
  25. Who are the members of the NYS Probation Commission?
  26. Are probation officers peace officers?

1. What is the difference between probation and parole?

Probation is a sentence or disposition imposed by a criminal court or family court. In general, probationers are released in the community without serving a period of local incarceration, although in certain circumstances they may be sentenced to both imprisonment (local) and probation; the sentence of incarceration shall be a condition of and run concurrently with a sentence of probation. Probation is a county function in New York State, although in New York City, the probation department is run by the City government. The Division of Probation and Correctional Alternatives (OPCA) provides regulatory oversight and funding to local probation departments.

Parole is a portion of a correctional sentence served in the community following a term of incarceration in state prison. For offenders serving an "indeterminate" sentence, the NYS Board of Parole makes decisions whether an eligible state inmate is granted or denied parole. Offenders sentenced to a "determinate" prison term generally are released after serving 6/7 of their sentence. The period of supervised release following incarceration for such offenders is known as "Post-Release Supervision." Parole or Post-Release Supervision is intended to assist offenders in returning to society. These offenders are supervised in the community by parole officers, who are state officials employed by the NYS Division of Parole.

2. Where can I find a directory of Alternatives to Incarceration Programs funded by the NYS Division of Probation and Correctional Alternatives (OPCA) by county?

The NYS Office of Probation and Correctional Alternatives' (OPCA) website currently includes a Directory of Alternatives to Incarceration Programs. The Directory is a county by county breakdown of OPCA funded Alternatives to Incarceration program, contact information and the location of county probation departments.

3. Where are county probation departments located?

The NYS Office of Probation and Correctional Alternatives' (OPCA) website includes a Directory of Probation Departments. The Directory provides the name and address of each county probation department as well as the name of each department director.

4. What is a "Certificate of Relief from Civil Disabilities"?

In general, Section 701 provides that a certificate may relieve an eligible offender of any forfeiture or disability, or remove any bar to employment, automatically imposed by law by reason of conviction of the crime or the offense. A conviction for a crime specified in a certificate of relief from disabilities shall not cause automatic forfeiture of any license, permit, employment or franchise, including the right to register for or vote at an election, or automatic forfeiture of any other right or privilege, held by the eligible offender and covered by the certificate. However, a certificate can not overcome automatic forfeiture resulting from convictions for violations of Section 2806 (5) of the Public Health Law or Section 1193(2) of the Vehicle and Traffic Law. A certificate also does not permit the convicted person to retain or be eligible for public office, nor does it void the conviction as if it were a pardon (see Correction law 701 and 706). For additional information on Certificates of Relief, please click here.

5. What are the "General Conditions of Probation"?

The term "General Conditions of Probation" means specific supervision requirements prescribed by the court as part of the probation disposition to assist the probationer in leading a law-abiding life.

6. What is "Interim Probation Supervision"?

When the court determines that a person is eligible for a probation sentence and the defendant agrees, the court may adjourn the sentencing for up to one year from the date of conviction by virtue of a defendant's plea or a finding of guilt and place a defendant under interim probation supervision. Please note that being placed on interim supervision does not guarantee a sentence to probation at the end of the interim period. In addition, if a person is sentenced to probation after successfully completing the interim probation period, the term of probation begins at sentencing and does not include the time under interim probation supervision. Interim supervision may be terminated prior to the end of the term and may result in a sentence to incarceration based on the individual's performance while under interim supervision.

7. What is a "split sentence"?

Judges may sentence an offender directly to a term of probation or may impose a "split sentence" under which a period of incarceration at the beginning of the supervision period is a condition of the probation sentence.

8. What are the hours of community service that a probationer can be ordered to complete?

The following are maximum hours based on underlying crime convictions:

D felony - 500

E felony - 400

A misdemeanor - 200

B misdemeanor and unclassified misdemeanor - 100

Violation - 70

9. Is a probationer required to work while under probation supervision?

That depends. Generally, probation departments will require that a probationer work or attend school or a vocational program while under supervision if doing so improves the probationer’s chance of success. Employment promotes responsibility and accountability. We know that employment helps to reduce probationer recidivism and enhances public safety. New York State is committed to increasing the number of probationers who are employed and able to support their families, as well as pay restitution to victims and fees to supervising probation departments.

10. What are PINS - Persons in Need of Supervision?

A person less than eighteen years of age who does not attend school in accordance with the education law or who is incorrigible, ungovernable, or habitually disobedient and beyond the lawful control of a parent or other person legally responsible for such child's care, or who possesses or uses illegal or controlled substances.

11. What is a JD - Juvenile Delinquent?

A person between the ages 7 and 16, who commits an act which if had been committed by an adult, would have been a crime. 

12. Where does someone go to obtain legal advice or representation?

An individual seeking legal advice should contact a local attorney or Bar Association or visit the New York State Bar Association website at http://www.nysba.org (look under Lawyer Referral and Information Service) or call, toll-free, 1-800-342-3661.

13. Where does someone go to obtain legal advice or representation if they cannot afford to hire an attorney?

An individual with a legal problem, who cannot afford a lawyer, should contact the public defense organization in their community. Addresses for these organizations can be found at the NYS Division of Criminal Justice Services website at http://www.criminaljustice.state.ny.us/crimnet/ojsa/agdir/contents.htm

14. Where can someone obtain information regarding domestic violence?

Domestic violence is a crime. Information can be obtained from the New York State Office for the Prevention of Domestic Violence website at http://opdv.state.ny.us

In support of the Governor's policies promoting a coordinated criminal justice response to domestic violence, and with federal S.T.O.P. funds made available through the NYS Division of Criminal Justice Services (DCJS), OPCA has collaborated with the Office for the Prevention of Domestic Violence (OPDV) and the New York State Coalition Against Domestic Violence to implement a joint project that includes Probation Officer training and advisement in response to domestic violence. OPCA has a highly involved statewide network of Probation Domestic Violence Liaisons (DVLs) from each county probation department, and a Domestic Violence Workgroup. Both function as advisors in the design and implementation of model policies, procedures and protocols in response to domestic violence.

15. Who must register with the State's Sex Offender Registry (SOR)?

The Sex Offender Registration Act (SORA) requires anyone on parole or probation or imprisoned for a sex offense from January 21, 1996 on, to register with the Division of Criminal Justice Services (DCJS). Also, sex offenders sentenced to probation, local jail, or state prison after that date must register upon their return to the community.

16. How long will an offender be registered?

Sex offenders who have been designated a sexual predator, a sexually violent offender or a predicate sex offender remains on the Sex Offender Registry for life. All other sex offenders must register for a period of twenty (20) years. However, offenders whose risk level status was a Level 3 risk on March 11, 2002 must also register for life unless judicially relieved of that obligation. There are three levels of risk, based on an offender';s risk of re-offending: Level 1 (low), Level 2 (moderate), and Level 3 (high). As a general rule, the sentencing court will determine an offender's risk level either at the time of sentence (in probation cases) or when the offender is released from custody (in jail or prison cases).

17. What happens if a required offender fails to register on the Sex Offender Registry?

The failure to register is a crime. A first conviction is punishable as a class E felony; a repeat conviction is punishable as a class D felony.

18. Where can I find more information about the Sex Offender Registry and the Sex Offender Registration Act (SORA)?

For more information about New York's Sex Offender Registry and the Sex Offender Registration Act (SORA) contact the NYS Division of Criminal Justice Services (DCJS).

19. Can a probationer sentenced to probation supervision in New York State move out of New York State?

Each case is considered individually. When a probationer requests, through their probation officer, a transfer of supervision to another state (Receiving State) the probation officer in the current state (Sending State) reviews the case to determine whether the probationer meets the necessary criteria for transfer. That criterion includes having an established residence or immediate family and employment or viable means of support in the Receiving State. It is important to note that a transfer to another state is a privilege provided to probationers who are currently complying with their terms and conditions of probation. If the probation officer agrees to pursue a transfer, the probationer must execute a waiver of extradition and must agree to abide by the terms and conditions set by both the Sending and Receiving States.

20. What information will probation officers require of individuals sentenced to probation?

Typically, information is gathered about the individual's previous involvement with the criminal justice system, substance abuse treatment needs, parental status, housing, employment and many other circumstances that may give an indication as to how a person might interact with his/her environment.

21. How does one file a formal complaint about a probation officer, the probation department or any other OPCA funded Alternatives to Incarceration program?

Questions or concerns regarding a particular probation officer or department should first be addressed with the probation officer's supervisor and/or the Director of that department. If after having written to the Probation Department Director concerning your problem, you are not satisfied, you may file a written complaint with the NYS Division of Probation and Correctional Alternatives (OPCA). All correspondence to OPCA should be sent to the attention of the State Director at 80 Wolf Road, Albany, New York 12205.

22. What types of Alternatives to Incarceration programs receive funding from the NY Office of Probation and Correctional Alternatives?

The Office of Probation and Correctional Alternatives (OPCA) facilitates funding for nearly 200 Alternative to Incarceration (ATI) programs throughout New York State.  The programs funded are designed to reduce recidivism, decrease reliance on pretrial detention or the use of incarceration and operate in a manner consistent with public safety.  These programs may fall under the authority of governmental or non-profit agencies. They operate in conjunction with the criminal justice system in all New York State counties and the City of New York.

The following are examples of Alternatives to Incarceration (ATI) programs funded through OPCA in New York State:

  • Pretrial Release Services Programs
  • TASC and other Drug and Alcohol Programs
  • Specialized Programs
  • Community Service Programs
  • Defender Based Advocacy Programs
  • Programs for individual who are mentally ill or with co-occurring disorder
  • Probation Violation Residential Centers

Please note that not all programs exist in all jurisdictions of the State.

23. How can I become a probation officer?

Probation officers in New York State work directly for one of 57 county probation departments or the City of New York. Each county department administers probation within its own jurisdiction. Each county and the City of New York have a municipal civil service agency that administers the civil service exams for the probation officer title. The NYS Department of Civil Service maintains the addresses and telephone numbers for each civil service agency, as well as recruitment and examination information. OPCA maintains the address and phone number for each probation department.

24. Who are the members of the NYS Probation Commission?

  • Robert M. Maccarone, State Director of OPCA and Chair of the NYS Probation Commission
  • The Honorable Anne Pfau, Chief Administrative Judge, Office of Court Administration
  • Robert Burns, Chief Probation Officer, Monroe County Office of Probation-Community Corrections
  • Wayne D'Arcy, former Probation Supervisor, Rensselaer County Day Reporting Center
  • Rocco Pozzi, Commissioner Westchester County Probation Department
  • Catherine Abate, former Commissioner, NYC Department of Probation
  • Alan Lizotte, Dean, School of Criminal Justice, State Univertity of New York at Albany

25. Does OPCA fund programs that are specific to the mentally ill criminal justice involved individual?

Yes. In 2002, the New York State Division of Probation and Correctional Alternatives (OPCA) first awarded grants in accordance with a Notice of Funding Opportunity: Services for a Shared Population: Defendants and Offenders with Mental Illness. This initiative offers seven grants mostly at $50,000 per year for a five year period, to provide specialized mental health services to defendants and offenders with serious mental illness (eligible Axis I diagnosis).

26. Are probation officers peace officers?

In New York State, all probation officers are peace officers. Peace officer training requires a complete week of basic peace officer training as well as a second week of firearms qualification to be completed within the first year of employment. The decision as to whether or not probation officers carry firearms is made individually by each local county probation department.