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The New Jersey Intensive Supervision Program (ISP)

Liz Domingo, Assistant Director, Probation Services
Ralph A. Esposito, Chief, Intensive Supervision Program

In response to the prison overcrowding crisis of the early 1980’s, the legislature funded the establishment of the New Jersey Intensive Supervision Program. The program, which commenced in 1983 under the direction of the Administrative Office of the Courts, was designed to test whether an intermediate form of punishment, one which would be less costly than prison, but much more onerous than traditional probation, will achieve the criminal justice objective of deterrence, as well as rehabilitation.

The New Jersey Intensive Supervision Program provides a structure in which certain offenders, sentenced to state penal institutions in the traditional fashion, are afforded an opportunity to work their way back into the community under intensive supervision. The program requires that offenders present a plan, which gives full assurance to a Screening Board and a Resentencing Panel of judges, that their return to the community will result in a positive social adjustment and will not jeopardize the public’s safety. By no means is the Intensive Supervision Program a “slap on the wrist”. It is, as the name implies, “intense”. For that reason, this program is not suited for everyone facing a prison term, and success is not assured. But for those who do succeed, participation can be a life altering experience.

Goals of the New Jersey Intensive Supervision Program:

  • Reduce the number of offenders serving state prison sentences by permitting them to be re-sentenced to an intermediate form of punishment.
  • Improve the utilization of correctional resources by making additional bed space available for violent criminals.
  • To test whether or not supervising selected offenders in the community is less costly and more efficient than incarceration.

Features of the New Jersey Intensive Supervision Program:

  • A three member panel responsible for screening applicants and recommending placement into ISP to a Resentencing Panel for its consideration and action
  • An advisory board with public and private, professional and lay members
  • A sentencing practice whereby participants earn release into the program and must continue to demonstrate to staff and the Resentencing Panel that they should be allowed to remain in the program
  • A participant plan for life in the community (work, study, community service, etc.)
  • Extensive client contacts and drug testing
  • Full-time employment, or vocational training requirements
  • Community Service requirements
  • Strict Curfew requirements
  • Drug , Alcohol and Psychological counseling when necessary
  • Mandatory payment towards court fines, fees and penalties, restitution
  • The use of the best contemporary technologies and programs for managing cases

In the beginning stages, ISP had three regional offices and less than 100 participants. Today, there are six regional offices and over 1200 participants at any one time. ISP officers devote approximately 80% or their time to direct field supervision, involving themselves in almost every aspect of the participants’ lives. As evidenced in a consistently low recidivism rate, the Intensive Supervision Program is working.

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For more information, contact the New Jersey Intensive Supervision Program at 171 Jersey Street, Building 6, 2nd Floor, Trenton, NJ 08625,

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