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April 19, 2024

Notable new commentary makes case for federal Safer Supervision Act

Alice Marie Johnson has this notable Fox News commentary discussion reentry reform. The full headline provides a preview: "I spent 20 years in prison for one mistake. I know the system is broken even when you get out. Getting out of prison is only the beginning of a new set of problems with probation." Here are snippets from the lengthy piece:

Federal supervision policies are supposed to help people successfully return to their communities from prison. Unfortunately, in many cases, they erect barriers to successful reintegration. The bipartisan Safer Supervision Act would break down those barriers, reduce recidivism and improve public safety....

Federal supervised release was originally meant to be applied only in cases where it was necessary for public safety. Unfortunately, it is now imposed in nearly every case.  About 110,000 individuals are under federal supervised release — a 200% increase from three decades ago.

As a result, case officers have become overburdened, often managing up to 100 cases at once.  With probation officers overstretched, they cannot devote adequate time or resources to managing those who pose higher public safety risks, and this "mismatch" can lead to recidivism.

Unnecessary supervision also comes with roadblocks that make it harder for low-risk people who have paid their debts to society to reintegrate into their communities.  In 2020, more people saw their supervised release revoked due to technical violations — such as failing to make a meeting with a probation officer or traveling without permission — than for committing new crimes....

The Safer Supervision Act, which has broad support from law enforcement, legal experts and criminal justice groups across the political spectrum, would tackle many of the issues that are causing the current system to fail.

First, instead of implementing one-size-fits-all supervision sentences for everyone exiting the justice system, the Safer Supervision Act would require courts to conduct individualized assessments to determine if supervision is necessary, and if so, what restrictions are needed to protect public safety or better support successful reentry.  This would ensure that the people who need the most support receive it while allowing people who are at lower risk of recidivism to fully stretch their freedom legs.  It would also prevent probation officers from becoming overburdened with irrelevant caseloads.

Another critical piece of the bill is that it creates incentives for maintaining good conduct and reintegrating successfully into society.  The legislation establishes a presumption of early termination once someone has served half of their supervision period, has shown good conduct and complied with supervision terms, and has been assessed as a low public safety risk.  This will encourage more people to take the steps needed to succeed, whether that involves undergoing substance use disorder treatment, pursuing more education or maintaining steady employment.

Other provisions in the bill also focus on rehabilitation.  For example, it would give courts the option to send people on supervised release who are found in possession of illicit substances to treatment and rehabilitation programs instead of requiring a mandatory revocation that often comes with prison time.  This would only apply in cases of simple possession, not possession with the intent to distribute.

Lastly, the bill calls for a thorough report on federal post-release supervision and reentry services to ensure taxpayer dollars are being used efficiently and responsibly.

Too many of our federal supervision rules are counterproductive.  Not only do they keep too many people who have served their time in prison and are not a threat to public safety from living full lives, but they overburden our law enforcement officers and make us less safe.  The Safer Supervision Act will help change that, giving deserving people a real second chance while ensuring public safety.

April 19, 2024 at 12:06 PM | Permalink


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