Division of Criminal Justice Services

Criminal Court Programs and Services

The area of Criminal Court Programs and Services include those probation-based functions, programs, and services that operate within the jurisdiction of a court that handles criminal acts that have been committed by a person who is 16 years of age or older. Important advances in criminal justice practices have led to probation departments increasing their specialization in investigation and supervision regarding high risk offenders including DWI, domestic violence and sex offense cases. Specialization in these areas result in the better management of offenders and to the enhancement


For criminal court cases, probation officers who conduct investigations are responsible for independently gathering information pertaining to the sentencing decision and for making an objective sentencing recommendation to the judge. Pre-sentence investigations are generally conducted for defendants convicted of felonies, and for many defendants convicted of misdemeanors. The pre-sentence reports by the probation department must contain information regarding: current offense; prior criminal history; personal characteristics; social, family and personal history; and other relevant factors. When relevant, the reports include victim impact statements. DPCA regulations mandate that pre-sentence reports include a sentencing recommendation, although the judge has complete discretion at sentencing (within sentencing ranges prescribed by law).


Probation departments are also responsible for supervision of offenders sentenced to probation by the criminal courts. 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. A sentence to probation is a criminal sanction in which the offender is subjected to a period of community supervision under certain court-imposed conditions. General conditions of probation are imposed by the court on all probationers. Beyond the general conditions of probation, special conditions of probation may also be imposed by the court. In setting special conditions of probation, judges have broad discretion which allows them to tailor the sentence to fit the specific circumstances of the offender. These general and special conditions provide the tools for the supervising probation officer's primary responsibilities: promoting public safety, reducing recidivism, and changing offender behaviors to include those

In New York State, all offenders convicted of misdemeanors may be sentenced to probation rather than jail. Offenders convicted of felonies may not be eligible for a probation sentence. Probation is authorized as a sentence option only for first time felony convictions where the offense is a Class E felony, or selected Class D or Class C non-violent felony. Certain Class A-II or B drug offenders may also receive a sentence of lifetime probation. Additionally, those granted "Youthful Offender" status, are generally eligible for probation.  At the end of 2003, 126,868 .

General conditions of probation are imposed by the court on all probationers. The term 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.

Special Conditions of Probation may also be imposed by the court. For example, a judge may order an offender who committed an alcohol-related offense to participate in alcoholism treatment. Judges may also establish curfews; require restitution payments; mandate participation in a community service program, or order drug testing.

Intensive Supervision

The Intensive Supervision Program (ISP) was implemented in 1978 to provide an alternative to incarceration for felony offenders who are also probation eligible, but are considered to be at high risk of failing on probation.  Offenders are placed under the supervision of officers having a caseload of no more than 21 probationers. This allows for close supervision.  In addition to increased supervision, these probationers receive appropriate interventions such as substance abuse treatment, cognitive therapy, or vocational/educational assistance. This intensive monitoring of high risk probationers coupled with case management provides for an effective balance between rehabilitation and protection of the public.

Currently, thirty-nine counties operate ISP programs.  DPCA provides state reimbursement for up to 100% of approved local program expenditures for this program.

Probation Eligible Diversion Program (PED)

DPCA funds locally operated Probation Eligible Diversion (PED) programs that target first-time, non-violent, probation eligible felony offenders who might otherwise receive a state prison sentence (sex offenders are excluded from participation). Departments have flexibility in identifying appropriate populations and designing the program to meet their unique needs and fit within the local criminal justice structure.

Many departments are partnering with Drug Courts to identify offenders appropriate for the program. Interim supervision is also used in many jurisdictions to provide a "trial"period, of up to one year, during which an offender has the opportunity to prove that he or she is a suitable candidate for probation. In addition to offenders who are under interim supervision or newly sentenced to probation, some departments place probationers in PED, who otherwise would have been sentenced to state prison for having violated the terms and conditions of their probation supervision sentence.

The PED program also includes comprehensive risk and needs assessment through COMPAS, (Correctional Offender Management Profiling for Alternative Sanctions) case planning, strong linkages to community treatment providers, and may include enhanced supervision through electronic monitoring and intensive reporting requirements. In most departments PED probationers are put on a specialized probation officer caseload.

COMPAS (Correctional Offender Management Profiling for Alternative Sanctions) an Adult Risk and Needs Assessment

On any given day, probation departments in New York State supervise an average of 130,000 adult probationers. 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. This information is used at all stages of the criminal justice process such as: assessing likelihood of failing to appear if released on bail, when compiling information for the pre-sentence investigation and sentencing recommendations, for case planning while under community supervision, and when considering changes in supervision level or early release are the primary examples.

At the request of probation departments, DPCA sought out standardized software that could be used to collect such information, as a complement to the professional judgment of the probation officer. The subsequently selected software, COMPAS, was developed by Northpointe Institute for Public Management, Inc., and became available to departments through DPCA for use in July of 2001. COMPAS is a standardized risk and needs assessment tool covering four different types of risk (violence, recidivism, failure to appear in court, and community non-compliance), and 18 different criminogenic needs. The software also includes case planning and reports generation features.

COMPAS is unique because it was developed for, validated, and normed on a representative sample of offenders in New York State. DPCA and Northpointe continue to work together to refine the software. DPCA staff provide training, in conjunction with local master trainers, to front line and administrative staff at local probation departments.

To date, nearly 30 departments are actively using COMPAS, and three more are currently planning implementation. During the second half of 2004, DPCA expects to provide Implementation Training to more departments and to continue training of probation staff in using the instrument. Several additions to the software are planned including development of an assisted system to integrate COMPAS results with portions of the pre-sentence investigation and an enhanced capability to use aggregate data in management decision-making and program development.