When a person is convicted of a serious crime in New Jersey, there is a very real possibility that they will be sentenced to prison. This can have a devastating effect on their life and their future, as well as the lives of their immediate family members and loved ones, especially if it is a lengthy term of incarceration. Many times, a person who serves time in prison winds up returning to prison later. The high recidivism rate for offenders is one reason that lawmakers created New Jersey’s Intensive Supervision Program (ISP). The idea behind ISP is that some offenders are better served by an “intermediate” punishment that is more like probation or parole than incarceration because these individuals will have the opportunity to better themselves, work at a job, and contribute to their communities. Basically, ISP emphasizes rehabilitation instead of punishment, with individuals being supervised outside of prison but still technically within the state’s correctional system.
What Is the Intensive Supervision Program in New Jersey?
The New Jersey Intensive Supervision Program, or ISP, was created in 1983 by the NJ Legislature. The idea behind ISP is that inmates benefit because they are given a sentencing alternative that allows them to focus on rehabilitation, while the public benefits because valuable resources are freed up in the criminal justice and penal systems. For example, when non-violent offenders are able to avoid a major part of their prison sentence after a conviction or guilty plea, there is more space in prison for violent criminals who might otherwise pose a danger if allowed to go free.
Since its creation, ISP has been a huge success and a vital part of the state’s probation system for criminal offenders. According to data maintained by the New Jersey Administrative Office of the Courts, ISP participants are far less likely than incarcerated offenders to be convicted of a new crime after having served their time in a correctional facility. At any given moment, there are more than 1,200 participants in ISP, and there have been more than 10,000 graduates since the program began. One of the main reasons that the program has been so successful is that participants are closely monitored by ISP officers, and officers are available 24 hours a day if assistance is needed to deal with a setback in drug or alcohol treatment, or to help the participant get mental health treatment.
Moreover, the program not only provides participants with an opportunity to address any drug or alcohol abuse problems through treatment and counseling, but it also gives participants the chance to attend educational workshops that deal with subjects like parenting, money management, and health issues.
How Do You Know if You Are a Candidate for ISP in NJ?
Some offenders who are sentenced to prison time in New Jersey seek the Intensive Supervision Program as an alternative sentencing option. One of the most important considerations for determining eligibility for ISP is whether the applicant’s release from prison will endanger others in the community. To that end, there must be a strong likelihood that the applicant will be able to successfully complete the program if allowed admission. Eligibility to apply for ISP is limited in a few ways:
- Only defendants who were charged with a felony-level offense in Superior Court are eligible for the Intensive Supervision Program because ISP only applies to offenders who face state prison time, not county jail time.
- Anyone who has been convicted of homicide, robbery, a sex crime like aggravated sexual assault, a particularly violent crime like second degree aggravated assault, unlawful possession of a weapon, possession of a weapon for an unlawful purpose, organized crime, official misconduct, or any first degree felony is ineligible for the program.
- An applicant to ISP must not have any conditions in their sentence or facts in their case that otherwise disqualify them from parole eligibility.
- If the applicant was convicted of a drug crime and sentenced in Drug Court, and then subsequently failed the conditions set by the court, they are ineligible for entrance into ISP.
If your case does not entail one of the components barring eligibility for ISP, you may be able to gain admission. For instance, charges like eluding police, aggravated assault, burglary, drug distribution crimes, and other felony charges may allow for you to be accepted into intensive supervision.
Completing the ISP Application Process to Get in
After an offender has served a minimum of 60 days of their sentence in state prison, they can potentially be released through ISP. There is an application process for ISP, and admission into the program is highly selective: roughly 20% of applicants are approved. Offenders must apply through the NJ Probation Services Division, and a Screening Board will review the offender’s pre-sentence report before determining whether to move the application along to an ISP Resentencing Panel.
If the Screening Board recommends the offender for admission, then a panel of three judges will preside over a hearing and carefully consider the applicant’s candidacy to determine whether the applicant should be allowed entrance into the program. Before the hearing, an ISP investigator will interview the applicant about their plans for housing, employment, and reintegrating themselves into the community if released from prison. Assuming the application is ultimately approved, the inmate is immediately released from incarceration and allowed to reenter the world, but with a number of restrictions.
What Does Intensive Supervision Program Parole Entail in NJ?
Instead of being forced to remain incarcerated in the correctional system and continue to serve time in prison, offenders who are admitted into the Intensive Supervision Program can be released and free to reengage with their families and community. However, this freedom comes with certain restrictions, as there are very strict rules and requirements that must be followed at all times. These rules include the following:
- Meetings: Anyone who is allowed to enter the Intensive Supervision Program should expect to meet with an ISP officer on a regular basis. The meetings may take place at the program participant’s residence or workplace, or at a regional ISP office or the location of the participant’s ISP community service. Additionally, the ISP officer is allowed to search the participant, their home, and their personal belongings for drugs, weapons, or other items that might constitute a violation of the program’s terms.
- Urine testing: The state conducts random urine testing, with offenders being checked for alcohol and narcotics. This includes both legal and illegal drugs, which means that even use of prescription drugs or marijuana, which was recently legalized, may constitute a violation of an offender’s ISP rules. Urine tests may be conducted 2-3 times each week while the offender remains in ISP.
- Employment: Anyone released from prison into the Intensive Supervision Program must secure a job within 30 days. Most individuals in ISP are required to maintain full-time employment, while some may be allowed to maintain part-time work under certain circumstances. Failure to find, and keep, a job could result in the offender being sent back to prison for the remainder of their sentence.
- Community Service: All participants in the Intensive Supervision Program must perform community service. The terms of the community service are set by the administrators of ISP, and the minimum is at least 16 hours of community service every month.
- Alcohol or Substance Abuse Counseling: If the ISP participant has any alcohol or substance abuse issues, or any other addiction issues such as gambling, they may be required to attend counseling and get treatment while in the program. This could include either inpatient or outpatient treatment.
- Pay Court Fines: If the court imposed any fines in the criminal case, or if the offender was ordered to pay restitution, these costs must be taken care of in order for the offender to be considered for entry into ISP.
- Pay Child Support: If the offender has any child support obligations, these must also be paid on time in order for the offender to remain in ISP.
- Pay ISP Costs: The Intensive Supervision Program has certain administrative costs, and these costs must be paid by the offender.
- Curfew: Although offenders who are allowed to enter ISP might not be under house arrest, they must obey a curfew that prevents them from staying out late at night. The curfew can be set between the hours of 8:00 p.m. and 10:00 p.m. In certain instances, an offender may be subject to home confinement for certain periods of time.
- Surveillance: Participants in ISP may be subject to surveillance by law enforcement to ensure that they are following the rules and not committing any criminal offenses. This may include electronic monitoring, with the participant being required to wear a device that keeps track of their whereabouts at all times.
- Remain in New Jersey: All ISP participants must remain in the state, unless they are given permission to leave by their ISP officer.
What if You Violate ISP Parole Conditions?
If an offender violates any of the ISP rules, they will be subject to sanctions. Depending on the nature and type of violation, the offender could face a more restrictive curfew or an order to remain at home when not working. In the worst cases, the offender could be removed from the program and subsequently ordered to serve the rest of their sentence in state prison. Beyond that, violators who fail to show up for court could be charged with escape, a crime that carries a possible sentence of 3-5 years in prison.
Contact an ISP Hearing Lawyer in Hudson County NJ
If you or someone you love is hoping to be accepted into the Intensive Supervision Program (ISP) in New Jersey, it is highly advisable to consult with a knowledgeable criminal defense lawyer who can determine if you are eligible and help you successfully gain admission. A qualified criminal attorney with experience handling ISP applications and hearings can be your best asset when positioning yourself for acceptance into the state’s supervision program.
Contact the law office of William Proetta Criminal Law if you would like to speak to a criminal defense lawyer free of charge. We are happy to set up an appointment to meet with you at our office in Jersey City or one of our several other offices throughout New Jersey. We offer free consultations 24/7 and zealous representation during ISP proceedings throughout the state. Call (201) 793-8018 or contact us online to go over your criminal case.