The Intensive Supervision Program (ISP) in NJ Explained

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In the eyes of the law in New Jersey, not all prisoners are alike. True, they all serve time for criminal convictions, but the variability of crimes, circumstances, criminal history, and individual characteristics means not everyone in prison is seen in the same way. In essence, the state operates such that public safety concerns are greater for violent offenders over non-violent offenders and that overcrowded prisons must prioritize housing violent criminals to keep them off the streets. Though it costs the state millions to run prisons, the criminal justice system operates under the assumption that public safety requires penalties for criminal behavior. To address overcrowding, high prison costs, and public safety, New Jersey developed the Intensive Supervision Program (ISP) in 1983. The program enables eligible prisoners to serve the end of their terms in the community under strict supervision.

Who Can Get Into ISP and Who Can’t in New Jersey

To be eligible for ISP, a person who is not serving a prison term for a first degree crime conviction or disqualified by parole restrictions may fit the profile of a successful candidate. If the individual is serving a term requiring minimum prison terms before becoming eligible for parole, they may not qualify until they serve the mandatory minimum sentence. Also, certain crimes other than violent crimes exclude certain prisoners: convictions for bribery, corruption, sex offenses, or organized crime. The applicant’s conviction also must not involve misconduct or abuse of office nor unlawful weapons possession. And those who failed to complete a Drug Court sentence cannot apply.

What You Have to Do to Apply for Intensive Supervision in NJ

If they are not disqualified, the applicant can obtain the ISP application and fill it out completely, attaching all necessary documents to prove eligibility, including recommendations and probation or parole reports, for example. Sentenced prisoners may apply to the program through the court administrative offices and enlist the help of a criminal lawyer to represent them during the eventual hearing to admit them. After preparing the package with supporting documents, the applicant sends their application to the ISP and awaits their assessment for acceptance into the program.

What Goes Into the Decision for Admission Into the Intensive Supervision Program

After undergoing an assessment by a screening committee that reviews reports, recommendations, and statements from sentencing judges, prosecutors, victims, police, pre-sentencing reporters, and probation or parole officers, the applicant may be eligible for ISP. Their application then goes to a three-judge panel for decision. In the meantime, the prisoner interview includes the person’s offering of a plan for their life outside of prison in ISP. They must state how they will deal with their challenges outside of prison, such as substance dependency or gambling addiction. The plan for staying out of trouble on the outside is an important consideration for those who approve or deny the application.

So long as they have no disqualifying factors, have a named community sponsor in their plan, served at least 60 days of their prison term, have a viable plan to succeed in the program, and otherwise seem like a good fit for working and living in a New Jersey community (the applicant must live in New Jersey), the assessment should clear the person making the application for Intensive Supervision for the program. If the judges agree that the person applying would thrive in a community-based program that requires strict cooperation, intense surveillance, and dedicated adherence to compliance rules, the applicant enters ISP.

What Happens While You Are in the NJ Intensive Supervision Program

As the name suggests, supervision is key. Program officers in ISP supervise just about every aspect of a person’s life outside of prison, from frequent testing for drugs and alcohol to housing, employment, and curfews. A person in ISP is required to maintain a full-time job, obtaining one within 30 days of their prison release and notifying their employer that they are in the ISP program. They must also submit to drug testing, attend counseling or rehabilitation treatment (NA, GA, or AA), and pay their obligations, whether that be child support, program costs, or restitution. And they must perform 16 hours of community service a month, keep to a budget, stick to a 6 p.m. curfew (unless their job requires them to stay later and they get permission to extend curfew), and maintain a diary. They must not collect government assistance, welfare, or unemployment benefits and not borrow money.

The program is for those individuals who want to serve their term outside of prison and are willing to work hard to stay in the community. Many convicted individuals would prefer home confinement and, in some cases, electronic monitoring, to prison walls, despite a strict curfew that allows work, community service, attendance at drug and alcohol addiction treatment sessions, counseling, and essential trips outside the home.

Most supervisory contact occurs telephonically, though officers may meet members at home, at their job, or attending treatment programs. However, all people in the program must submit to ISP officer searches of their homes or person. Since those in ISP must not have weapons, drugs, or alcohol or leave New Jersey, ISP officers frequently visit their homes to verify compliance. The program lasts for 16 months or more, especially if the original sentence is over five years or the prisoner violated program rules. Strict compliance increases the likelihood of the person’s program completion and rehabilitation.

The Benefits of ISP

Although intense, going home and beginning the process of reintegrating into the community can be life-changing if you successfully apply and are admitted to the Intensive Supervision Program (ISP). And for those who need it, there are the added benefits of probation officers on call any time, night and day, their community sponsor, a plan, and the resources to treat substance addiction and psychological challenges.

What happens if you violate Intensive Supervision Program requirements

Even though the program’s success is verified in low recidivism and high completion rates for the state, not all admitted ISP participants complete the program. They may have devised a plan they cannot reasonably follow or fall back into old habits that landed them in prison or other reasons. Those who do not complete the program because they violated program rules return to prison temporarily or permanently to finish out their term.

Anyone who allegedly violates the ISP rules needs representation, especially if the re-sentencing panel recommends removal from the program. An attorney can help argue that the person accused of violating ISP should remain in the program. It is not an extraordinary notion that someone had a temporary setback due to extraordinary but excusable circumstances. A good lawyer with experience may persuade a review board to allow their client to stay in the program with extra restrictions or temporarily leave the program. But overall, the admissions and termination process looks to the program’s focus, which is to turn people’s lives around. Enlisting help from a criminal lawyer who knows the rules, applications process, and hearings specifics inside-out is a great decision if you are looking to position yourself for success with ISP.

Looking to Get in or Stay in the Intensive Supervision Program in Ocean County NJ?

When it comes to the Intensive Supervision Program (ISP), successfully getting into the program and staying in it may be challenging. Bearing that in mind, seeking help from a criminal defense attorney who has helped numerous clients with their applications and hearings to get into the program and stay in after a setback is invaluable. The highly equipped criminal lawyers at our Ocean County defense firm know how to highlight and how to package a successful ISP application. If you plan to apply for the ISP program, contact our office in Point Pleasant to get help from an experienced ally who understands how to maximize your chances of success. Our team can be reached 24/7 by calling (848) 238-2100.

With more than a decade of experience defending clients against criminal charges, founding partner William A. Proetta has successfully handled and tried thousands of cases, from DWI to murder. As a New Jersey native, he has focused his career on helping people in the area where he grew up, serving Middlesex, Ocean, Hudson, and Union counties.