NYS Seal




New York State's Local Conditional Release System.


To consider how the statutes governing New York State's local conditional release system should be modified

New York City
November 16, 2004
10:30 AM
Assembly Hearing Room
250 Broadway, Room 1923, 19th Floor

Albany, New York
December 14, 2004
10:30 AM
Legislative Office Building
Roosevelt Hearing Room C

New York State's Local Conditional Release Law was enacted in 1989. Under the statute, each county outside New York City, and the City of New York, are required to appoint a Commission consisting of at least three members who have the authority to offer "conditional release" to local jail inmates serving a sentence of one year of less. Inmates are eligible to obtain release from jail after serving at least 60 days of their sentence and must agree to serve a new sentence of probation supervision for a period of one year upon release from jail under the program. Local Conditional Release Commissions are also empowered to return offenders to jail for a violation of the terms of their conditional release.

Prior to 1989, local jail inmates were able to obtain conditional release under similar procedures through the New York State Board of Parole after serving at least 90 days in jail. The Local Conditional Release Law replaced the former parole statute. The current Local Conditional Release Law expires on September 1, 2005. At that time, absent any legislative action, the current law would revert to the former statute, under which the State Board of Parole would make conditional release determinations.

Although complete and reliable data are not available, it is clear that the authority to provide for local conditional release has been used very sparingly by local conditional release commissions in recent years. In the City of New York, for example, of the thousands of inmates serving local jail sentences, published reports have noted that only 15 inmates were granted local conditional release between 1999-2004. The majority of these rare release determinations were made with little apparent controversy. In some cases, release decisions were apparently based on inmate medical needs or other arguably appropriate considerations.

Two high profile release decisions during the past year, however, have generated significant concerns about the work of local conditional release commissions and highlighted serious problems in the way at least some of these commissions have been operating. In the first of these cases, Mary Beth Anslow, an inmate serving a one year term in Rensselaer County for Endangering the Welfare of a Child following conduct in which a child died in her illegal day care center, was released after three months in jail. A public outcry followed, focused on whether Anslow inappropriately benefited from family and political connections unrelated to the merits of her early release application, whether the Rensselaer County Local Conditional Release Commission violated the law in granting her conditional release and why early release was granted to an offender whose crime involved the death of a child. All of the commission members resigned or had their terms terminated following the decision and a Supreme Court justice later overturned the Commission's determination, finding that it had violated the law in granting Anslow early release. The court ordered Anslow back to jail to serve the remainder of her term.

In the second and most recent case, former State Senator Guy Velella was released from jail by the New York City Local Conditional Release Commission after serving approximately 60 days of a one year term imposed following his guilty plea in a bribery case. Two of Velella's co-defendants were also granted early release by the Commission. Allegations that Velella benefited inappropriately from his political affiliations and was granted special preferential treatment because of those associations have swirled since the decision. As in the Anslow matter, the Velella case has resulted in the resignation of members of the City's Local Conditional Release Commission and has spurred investigations by multiple governmental agencies into the facts surrounding Velella's release.

The Anslow and Velella cases have highlighted significant flaws in the current Local Conditional Release Commission law, including a lack of uniform standards and criteria for granting early release, deficient reporting and record-keeping concerning early release decisions, a lack of accountability for decisions about conditional release and the failure of commissions in some cases to follow lawful procedures in making their determinations. These hearings will focus on how local conditional release commissions have operated in New York over the past 15 years, whether their existence should be continued in any form and, if so, how the conditional release system could be reformed to ensure that it operates consistently, transparently, lawfully and in the public interest.

Please see the reverse side for a list of subjects to which witnesses may direct their testimony.

Persons wishing to present pertinent testimony to the Committee at the above hearing should complete and return the enclosed reply form as soon as possible. It is important that the reply form be fully completed and returned so that persons may be notified in the event of emergency postponement or cancellation.

Oral testimony will be limited to 10 minutes' duration. In preparing the order of witnesses, the Committee will attempt to accommodate individual requests to speak at particular times in view of special circumstances. These requests should be made on the attached reply form or communicated to Committee staff as early as possible. In the absence of a request, witnesses will be scheduled in the order in which reply forms are postmarked.

Ten copies of any prepared testimony should be submitted at the hearing registration desk. The Committee would appreciate advance receipt of prepared statements.

In order to meet the needs of those who may have a disability, the Assembly, in accordance with its policy of non-discrimination on the basis of disability, as well as the 1990 Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), has made its facilities and services available to all individuals with disabilities. For individuals with disabilities, accommodations will be provided, upon reasonable request, to afford such individuals access and admission to Assembly facilities and activities.

Committee on Corrections


  1. Should the authority to grant local conditional release to lower-level, non-violent offenders serving local jail sentences be retained in any form or should such authority be completely abolished? Does the local conditional release system serve any appropriate public purpose? Are there lower-level, non-violent offenders who warrant consideration for conditional release from local jail? Or should the entire system be scrapped?
  2. If the authority to grant local conditional release is maintained, should it be authorized through a vehicle other than local conditional release commissions? What other models might be considered to operate such a system?
  3. If local conditional release commissions or some other conditional release authority are maintained:
    1. Should additional uniform statewide standards be set for inmates seeking conditional release? What should those standards be?
    2. What reporting and record-keeping requirements should be established for local conditional release decisions?
    3. What changes in the appointment process for local conditional release commissions should be established?
    4. How could commission procedures be modified to make them more uniform and transparent?
    5. Are the current statutes, rules and procedures for determining and punishing violations of conditional release appropriate? What changes should be made in this system?
    6. What can be done to best ensure that local conditional release decisions are not based on political affiliations or other preferential treatment unrelated to the merits of an inmate's claim?


Persons wishing to present testimony at the public hearing on New York State's Local Conditional Release System are requested to complete this reply form as soon as possible and mail it to:

Richard McDonald
Legislative Associate
Assembly Committee on Corrections
Room 513 - Capitol
Albany, New York 12248
Email: mcdonad@assembly.state.ny.us
Phone: (518) 455-4313
Fax: (518) 455-4128.

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box November 16th in NYC   box December 14th in Albany

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