Healthy New Jersey

Office of the Public Defender

Parole Revocation Defense Unit (PRDU)

Commencing on October 2, 2023, as a result of legislation signed by the Governor on September 12, 2023, the Parole Revocation Defense Unit (PRDU) commenced providing state-wide legal representation to adult parolees charged with violating parole for the first time since 1991. This includes representation of parolees at initial probable cause hearings and final revocation hearings held before administrative hearing officers. Representation also includes appeals to the full Parole Board following an adverse revocation decision. The alleged violation may be technical, or a violation based upon a new criminal charge brought against the parolee while under parole supervision.  

Historically, the OPD enabling statute of 1974 required the Public Defender to represent indigent parolees at parole revocation hearings. Until 1991, the PRDU represented indigent parolees in revocation proceedings. Then in 1991, the annual appropriations act prohibited state funds from being utilized in revocation proceedings. Because of this lack of funding, the OPD could no longer represent parolees at revocation hearings. Three years later, the Public Advocate Restructuring Act of 1994 formally repealed the enacting statute’s parole revocation provisions. In 2023, the Legislature passed a bill, signed into law by the Governor on September 12, 2023, that restored the OPD’s authority to represent individuals facing parole revocation.

By way of background, the Criminal Sentencing and Disposition Commission (CSDC) unanimously recommended legislation expanding the OPD enabling statute thereby ensuring that parolees are represented by competent and experienced public defenders during the revocation process, not inexperienced pro bono counsel assigned from the “Madden list.” The CSDC recognized that the practice of assigning private appointed counsel to represent indigent parolees at revocation hearings provided insufficient constitutional protections.  Indeed, it was clear to the CSDC that assigned private Madden counsel were generally ill-equipped to offer competent representation to parolees who were faced with the potential grievous loss of liberty emanating from the revocation of parole.

Following the CSDC recommendation, with the support of the Public Defender, the New Jersey State Bar Association, the Attorney General, and the Parole Board, on June 30, 2023, S-3772 was passed and subsequently signed into law on September 12, 2023. The legislation supplements Chapter 158A of Title 2A and states: “There is hereby established, within the Office of the Public Defender, a unit which shall provide for the legal representation of any person on parole from a correctional institution of this State or otherwise under the parole supervision of this State who is charged with violation of that parole or who is under consideration for revocation of parole.”

As a result of this legislation, the OPD has commenced representing parolees at revocation hearings for the first time since 1991. Significantly, the parole restriction on State funds, which had been included in the annual appropriations bill since 1991, has been eliminated.  

The Director of the PRDU is Assistant Public Defender Joseph J. Russo. He or a member of his staff can be reached at (973) 776-9720. The Unit is located at 31 Clinton Street, 12th Floor, Newark, New Jersey, 07101.

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