Process and Impact Evaluation of New York City’s Pretrial Supervised Release Program



MDRC launched a study of New York City’s Supervised Release (SR) program shortly after its citywide rollout in 2016, assessing its effectiveness as it existed before New York State’s bail reform legislation went into effect in 2020. SR offered judges across the five boroughs of New York City an alternative to money bail by providing the option of pretrial release supervision. At the time of the evaluation, eligible individuals included those facing certain misdemeanor and nonviolent felony charges who were not at high risk for felony pretrial rearrest based on a locally developed and validated risk assessment tool. The goal of SR is to reduce the use of pretrial detention and reliance on money bail while ensuring individuals’ appearance in court and maintaining public safety.

The Mayor’s Office of Criminal Justice (MOCJ) contracted with three organizations to provide pretrial release supervision: the Center for Alternative Sentencing and Employment Services (CASES), the Center for Court Innovation (CCI), and the Criminal Justice Agency (CJA). After assessing individuals’ risk levels and needs, provider staff members monitor clients in the community while they await trial or other resolution of their criminal charges. Additionally, providers may refer clients to community-based services, enabling their engagement with stabilizing support while avoiding the costs and burdens of pretrial detention.

Agenda, Scope, and Goals

MDRC and its subcontractor, the Vera Institute of Justice, evaluated SR with funds administered through the New York City Center for Economic Opportunity and provided by the District Attorney of New York. The goals of the evaluation were to describe how SR operated and to assess its effects on outcomes of interest such as failure-to-appear rates, pretrial rearrests, pretrial detention, and case disposition and sentencing.

Design, Sites, and Data Sources

The process study design included observations of arraignment court proceedings; interviews with various system actors (judges, defense attorneys, prosecutors, SR participants, and provider staff members); interviews and focus groups with other important stakeholders (program managers, supervising judges, public defense organization leaders, and the district attorney’s office); and quantitative analysis of merged data from court proceedings, prearraignment defendant interviews, arrest and conviction records, and provider records.

To assess the effects of the SR program, the evaluation used a regression discontinuity design. The design compared the outcomes of defendants just above and just below an SR eligibility cutoff that was based on their scores on a risk assessment. Because these two groups of defendants were comparable at the outset but differed in their potential access to the SR program, any differences in their outcomes could be attributed to the SR program with a high degree of confidence.

Both the process and impact studies assessed the SR program citywide, as well as by individual New York City borough.