How Long Does Inmate Release Take In NYC?

It's largely a question of how quickly Corrections processes the release, so there is no precise answer. However, a good rule of thumb is to take the next regular business hour and add 10.

One of the most common questions we receive is "When will my family member be released from custody?". Unfortunately, the process is in the hands of the city, and a precise estimate is impossible. Still, a good rule of thumb is to take the next regular business hour and add 10.

Illustration showing the time breakdown of how long each step in the inmate release process takes

A visual breakdown of the time in the inmate release process (click image for high resolution version).

Arranging bail is a multi-step process (see our overview here). Here we are focusing on the steps after the family has completed their portion of the process: the agreements have been signed, and money has been posted. Three steps remain:

  1. The bond must be presented before a judge
  2. The cut slip must be delivered to the holding facility
  3. Corrections must process the inmate's release

1. Presenting the bond before the judge

~1 hour (during standard working hours)

In New York, a bail bond must be reviewed and approved by a judge before it can secure the defendant's release. In most instances, the bond must be presented to the specific judge hearing the case. That requires the bond be presented during standard court hours: 9am - 5:00pm Mon-Fri.

There are exceptions to this. During non-business hours, some courts allow relatively small bonds (<$5,000) to be presented to any judge hearing cases. Some New York City counties will hear bond presentations over the weekend (Staten Island) while others will not (Brooklyn). Some counties will hear presentations at night court (Manhattan). Other counties do not have night court (Staten Island).

At Betterbail, we request that our partner agents dispatch a licensed New York City bail bondsman immediately once a family's paperwork is completed. Presentation is delayed only during non-standard business hours, for the reasons detailed above.

Assuming court is in session, presentation of the bond takes around one hour. The agent presents the paperwork to the court clerk, who reviews, attaches some additional documentation, and hands to the judge. The bail agent is sworn in to answer any questions of the judge. Finally, the judge issues a decision approving or denying the bond.

If approved, the judge signs a "cut slip" instructing the Department of Corrections to release the inmate.

Cut slip issued and signed by judge ordering the release of an inmate

A cut slip issued by a judge ordering the Deparment of Corrections release an inmate.

2. Delivering the cut slip to holding facility

~2 hours (depending on facility)

Unfortunately, the New York City courts and Corrections Department haven't fully embraced recent technology, and the physical cut slip must be delivered by courier to the appropriate holding facility.

Delivery time depends entirely on where the inmate is being held. If being held in the facility adjacent to the court, delivery takes around half an hour, mostly in waiting for a Corrections employee to locate the appropriate records.

However, if the inmate is being held on Rikers or at the Vernon Bain Center - the two Corrections facilities on the East River near LaGuardia - delivery will take significantly longer.

Rikers is accessible only by bus, and while the buses run 24 hours, the frequency can be spotty. After reaching the island, the courier must store their possessions in a locker and then wait for another bus to the specific facility where the inmate is held.

Once at the facility, the courier waits for a Corrections employee to receive, review, and approve the slip. That generally takes another 45 minutes, though it can take longer if a lockdown occurs on the island.

3. Waiting for Corrections to process the release

~7 hours

Once the cut slip has been accepted, it's just a matter of waiting for Corrections to process the inmate's release. Unfortunately, that generally takes around 7 hours and sometimes even longer.

It's difficult to say why exactly the release takes as long as it does. We've reached out to the Department of Corrections for comment, and will update this article if they ever respond.

The variability and delay make it difficult for families to be present at the release. In many instances, these families want to accompany the released every step from the Corrections facility to a treatment program. Families can use VINELink for automated updates on inmate release via email, phone, and text.

In our view, this process needs to be faster. At present, it imposes a tremendous burden on families and makes it difficult to manage re-entry into society. That makes all New Yorkers less safe.

Total Time: ~10 hours