The Parole Revocation Defense Unit was established in 1972 as the first program in the nation to represent clients released from prison to community supervision who are charged with violating the conditions of release. PRDU provides legal representation and social work diversion services specifically to the indigent parolee population.
Since 2004 PRDU has been the primary defender for parole violators charged within New York City, and has been assigned more than 7,000 cases annually. Many of our clients have special needs and issues that are obstacles to their ability to complete their parole supervision, including drug addiction, mental illness, HIV/AIDS and other medical problems. The Unit continues to achieve remarkable success contesting the legitimacy of violations, diverting mentally ill and chemically addicted clients to community-based treatment programs, and presenting mitigating evidence to reduce the sentences for those returned to prison. PRDU attorneys work in a team with forensic social workers who, when appropriate, assess our clients’ needs and arrange for their placement in drug, medical or MICA programs for mentally-ill, chemically addicted clients.
PRDU is also involved in litigating related issues that arise in the representation of our clients. One area in which we have had particular success springs from the decision in the Second Circuit Court of Appeals, Earley v. Murray, 451 F.3d 71 (2nd Cir. 2006). The Court there held that only a judge can impose a sentence on a convicted defendant – so that, in those instances where the judge did not mention post-release supervision in the sentencing proceedings, any post-release supervision is illegal. In a landmark Legal Aid Society case, a unanimous New York State Court of Appeals ruling invalidated periods of post-release supervision added by the Department of Correctional Services or court clerks. Prior to the ruling, attorneys in the PRDU secured the release of over 100 clients who were being held for violating the terms of post-release supervision that had been imposed illegally.