Overview of Key Provisions of Chapter 1 of the Laws of 1998 - Jenna's Law
On August 6, 1998, "Jenna's Law" was signed, which represented the second phase of an initiative to introduce truth-in-sentencing principles into New York State's sentencing structure for all violent felony offenders. In 1995, the Governor ended indeterminate sentencing for second-time violent felony offenders and provided that if an offender maintains a good disciplinary and program record while in prison, he or she would be eligible for release only after serving 85 percent of his or her prison term. Jenna's Law applies that same structure to first-time violent felony offenders and establishes mandated post-release supervision terms for all violent felony offenders upon their release from prison.
How Does This Law Affect Sentencing For First-Time Violent Felony Offenders:
Penal Law section 70.02 is amended by establishing determinate sentencing for first-time violent felony offenders. The prison term is to be set by the judge in whole or half years within the following ranges:
- B felony - between 5 and 25 years
- C felony - between 3½ and 15 years
- D felony - between 2 and 7 years
- E felony - between 1½ and 4 years
Under previous law the judge established a minimum and maximum term within allowable ranges. The offender was eligible to first be considered for parole at the minimum term and if granted, would continue on parole until the expiration of the maximum term.
Any existing alternative sentencing option applicable to first-time D and E violent felony offenders will remain in effect under Jenna's Law. The new law does not remove these options, but provides that if a sentence of imprisonment is to be imposed it will be a determinate sentence.
[Note: Class 'A' violent offenses (Murder 1° and 2°, Kidnapping 1° and Arson 1°) are not listed above because they were not formally included as "Violent Felony Offenses" when section 70.02 was adopted. These crimes already carried the most severe sentence of mandatory life imprisonment.]
Alternative Sentences Available for Victims of Domestic Violence Who Commit First-Time Violent Felonies:
The law authorizes a sentencing court to impose an indeterminate sentence in cases in which the defendant was a victim of domestic violence. In cases in which the defendant stands convicted of an offense enumerated in Penal Law section 70.02(1), other than an Article 130 (Sex Offenses) offense, the court may impose an indeterminate sentence if, after a hearing, it concludes that (a) the defendant was the victim of physical, sexual or psychological abuse by the victim or intended victim of the instant offense; (b) such abuse was a factor in causing the defendant to commit the instant offense; and, (c) the victim or intended victim was a member of the same family or household as the defendant (as that term is defined in Criminal Procedure Law, section 530.11). In such cases, the indeterminate sentencing ranges are as follows:
- B felony - maximum term between 6 and 25 years
- C felony - maximum term between 4½ and 15 years
- D felony - maximum term between 3 and 7 years
- E felony - maximum term between 3 and 4 years
- The minimum term must be one-half the maximum
How Will Post-Release Supervision Apply to Violent Felony Offenders:
The law adds a new Penal Law section 70.45 to mandate that determinate sentences for all violent offenders must include as a part of the sentence, a separate period of post-release supervision. After an offender has served at least 85 percent of his or her sentence and has maintained a good institutional record while in prison, he or she can be released for a period of post-release supervision which is established by law as follows:
- 5 years for class B and C first time violent felony offenders
- 3 years for class D and E first time violent felony offenders
- 5 years for all second-time offenders convicted of a violent felony
A sentencing judge may specify a shorter period of post-release supervision for first-time violent felony offenders; provided however, that the post-release period must be at least 2½ years for class B and C first-time violent felons, and at least 1½ years for class D and E first-time violent felons.
The Board of Parole will establish and impose conditions of post-release supervision in the same manner that it currently does for inmates granted parole or conditional release. The new law also authorizes the Board to require any offender released from prison on post-release supervision to participate in programs at a residential treatment facility for up to six months following the offender's release from prison.
A violation of post-release supervision may result in reincarceration for a fixed term of at least 6 months and up to the unserved balance of the post-release supervision term, not to exceed 5 years.
New Provision of Services to Victims:
The new law also mandates that within 60 days of the imposition of a sentence of imprisonment in a State correctional facility, the prosecutor must provide the victim of a violent felony offense as defined in Penal Law section 70.02 or a felony defined in Article 125 (Homicide and Related Offenses) with a form which allows the victim to request information regarding the escape, absconding, discharge, parole, conditional release or release to post-release supervision of the offender. If the victim returns the completed form, developed by the Department of Correctional Services (DOCS), to the prosecutor, the prosecutor is obligated to forward the same to DOCS for registration. For a copy of the DOCS form see below.
The law further provides that by no later than January 1, 1999, DOCS must establish an automated telephone system that a victim, family member of a victim, a witness or any member of the general public may call to obtain information relating to the crime and sentence of an inmate. The Division of Parole is also required to establish a program by no later than April 1, 1999 whereby a victim, family member of a victim, a witness or any member of the general public is provided access to information concerning the community of residence of an offender who is under the supervision of the Division of Parole, as well as the address and telephone number of the Division's regional parole office which is responsible for supervising the offender.