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April 30, 2023

Latest reporting of US District Court's experience getting involved with supervised release

A couple of helpful folks recently focused my attention on the notable work that SDNY US District Judge Richard M. Berman has been doing in the arena of federal supervised release.  This work is discussed by Judge Berman in this Regulatory Review article, titled “Federal Court Involvement in Supervised Release,” and here is the start of this article:

In most cases, individuals’ release from federal prison does not mark the end of their sentences. A federal criminal sentence typically also includes a term of “supervised release,” which the U.S. Sentencing Commission defines as a “unique type of post-confinement monitoring that is overseen by federal district courts with the assistance of federal probation officers.”  Supervised release is intended to assist people who have served prison terms with their effective reintegration, or “reentry,” into the community.

Judges are not always actively involved in overseeing supervision.  Rather, officers of the U.S. Probation Office play the dominant role in monitoring individuals on supervised release.  Judges tend to become more involved only after a supervisee has failed to comply with the terms of supervision.  As a result, judges may miss the opportunity meaningfully to assist with reentry and to help ensure that necessary services such as drug treatment, mental health counseling, and housing and employment assistance are provided.

Over the past five-plus years, my chambers staff and I developed a more active and involved approach to supervised release.  The practice features regular supervised release hearings intended to help ensure that supervisees succeed and avoid further negative involvement in the criminal justice system.  Importantly, this practice also includes early termination of supervised release for all those who have shown that they no longer need supervision.

That Regulatory Review article also provides a link to a 2021 report with data about how this court involved supervised release functioned and some of its impacts.  A 2022 version of this report (as will as some slides) were sent my way recently, and are available in links below.  And here is part of the executive sumary of this latest report:

In this report, we provide results from our court involved supervised release project. Data and case studies are presented from the perspectives of recidivism and desistance from crime—in the areas of rearrest, return to prison, and early termination of supervision.

The Study Population rearrest rates over three and five years are 17.1% and 20.4%, respectively; the return to prison rate is 13.2%; and the early termination rate is 46.2%. These results include all Study Population supervisees and make no adjustments for “risky” supervisees.

Acknowledging that comparisons are at best imprecise, we include an AO study which shows rearrest rates of 20.8% at three years (16.3% adjusted) and 27.7% at five years (page 20); a Bureau of Justice Statistics study which shows a return to prison rate of 31.6% (page 22); and an AO early termination study which shows a rate of 18.8% (page 34).

The approach and outcomes presented in our report are very encouraging. At the same time, it is premature to conclude or to celebrate that recidivism is decreasing (page 8).

A fair conclusion to be reached from the data and the case studies is that judges who become actively involved in supervision — together with dedicated probation officers and others — can unequivocally and meaningfully assist supervisees to safely and successfully reenter their communities.

Download Judge Berman Supervised Release Report (2022.10.12)

Download Judge Berman 2023.04.05 Supervised Release Slides

April 30, 2023 at 11:44 AM | Permalink


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