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July 22, 2010

Big new US Sentencing Commission report on federal supervised release

I was intrigued and pleased to come across on the US Sentencing Commission's website this long new report from the USSC titled simply "Federal Offenders Sentenced to Supervised Release." Here is an excerpts from the report's introduction and conclusion:

This report addresses the legal framework and most common legal issues that arise in regard to supervised release and analyzes data concerning the imposition, modification, and revocation of supervised release terms.

In 1984, as part of the Sentencing Reform Act (“SRA”) that created the federal sentencing guidelines system, Congress prospectively eliminated parole and established supervised release.  Supervised release is a “unique” type of post-confinement monitoring that is overseen by federal district courts with the assistance of federal probation officers, rather than by the United States Parole Commission.  A sentencing court is authorized (and, in some cases, required) to impose a term of supervised release in addition to a term of imprisonment. While on supervised release after reentry into the community following release from imprisonment, an offender is required to abide by certain conditions, some mandated by statute and others imposed at the court’s discretion.  If an offender violates a condition, a court is authorized (and, in some cases, required) to “revoke a term of supervised release, and require the defendant to serve in prison all or part of the term of supervised release without credit for time previously served on post[-]release supervision.”...

With nearly one million federal offenders having been sentenced to supervised release since the passage of the Sentencing Reform Act (including more than 100,000 offenders currently on supervised release) and with revocations occurring in approximately one-third of cases in which supervised release terms were imposed, issues concerning the imposition and revocation of such terms arise frequently.  This report has addressed a wide variety of legal and data issues concerning supervised release.  The federal courts of appeals have taken divergent positions on many of the legal issues....

Courts’ close adherence to the guidelines’ provisions concerning the imposition of supervised release has been consistent for most of the major offense types (drug-trafficking, firearms, immigration, and fraud/larceny cases) and also has been consistent across the criminal history categories.  Data concerning the termination and revocation of supervised release terms are informative concerning whether such uniformity across offense types and criminal history categories has been warranted. In particular, the percentage of successful terminations of supervision for certain offense types (e.g., drug cases) has been significantly higher than for other offense types (e.g., firearms cases).  Furthermore, success rates in supervision are highly correlated with offenders’ criminal history categories at the time of the original sentencing.  On average, the lower the criminal history category an offender has, the greater likelihood that the offender successfully will complete supervision without revocation for violation of the conditions of supervision.

Kudos to the USSC for producing this impressive report on federal supervised release law and practice, and kudos to any reader who uses the comments to spotlight any especially significant or surprising aspect of the report.

July 22, 2010 at 03:55 PM | Permalink


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I've only just begun to read the report but it is extremely welcome. Federal supervised release is understudied by both lawyers and social scientists so I am hopeful that what looks to be an extremely comprehensive report will prompt more work in this area.

Posted by: Christine Scott-Hayward | Jul 27, 2010 2:50:42 PM

i am a student,,i am doing a report on federal supervised release,,,and the costs of supervision for such extensive time that they do for those who have already finished their prison term,,i was informed that the federal probation has changed the drug testing locations for those on supervised release from out side facilities such as m.h.s. to now reporting directly to the probation office,,which was not how it was done for some time...i know that had to be for budget cutting,, since they were hiring all those extra employees of m.h.s.,,as well as the persons at m.h.s. to do the urine testing..my question is some of those have reported to me,, for my study that they were even taken off urine testing totally,, with out completing the phase program,,(colors being phase 1),,(animals being phase 2),,and (cars being phase 3) each phase had an amount of times they would be required to report to the m.h.s. building each month (m.h.s.--mental health services)is the name of the outsourced company hired by probation for not only mental health counseling but to do the urine testing...these are the amounts of testing done on each phase(colors-4 times a month testing,,animals-2-times a month testing,,and finally the car stage--1-time a month testing)my question is once those people are taken off testing phase program,,with no positive tests,,are they still required and mandated to submit to urine testing? i have been told that due to budget cuts,, the federal supervised release defendants who were taken out of that testing have not even had to do a urine test in well over a year(that is not even a random type of testing) so again back to the question,,,once they are taken off the drug testing phase program and told by their p.o they are off urine's,,,,are they still gonna receive testing on random testing basis? or is the policy to no longer test them at all due to the cost.. as i said i know an individual who was testing well over 1&1/2 years with not one dirty,,not one diluted,,was never even placed in the last phase,, which was to be once a month testing....since that last urine and notification that he was no longer on the drug testing program,,he has not been tested at all in over 14 moths...this person is not using drugs,,,in fact his case was not even a drug case....i am curious to know,,did the govt. cut off testing early due to budget cuts and will that person ever have to do a urine now that he has been off the drug testing program for over a year and not once even called in for a random test in 14 months now...i hope i have explained this w/out being too confusing...lol....thanks for your time and hope to hear from you soon ,, mike

Posted by: mike | Aug 31, 2011 12:37:56 AM

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