Post Conviction Overview


Philosophy of Supervision

The federal probation and pretrial services system is fundamentally committed to protecting the public and assisting in the fair administration of justice. This commitment is an important component of the federal judiciary’s responsibility for community corrections. United States probation officers are community corrections professionals who serve as officers of the court and as agents of the United States Parole Commission. They are responsible for the supervision of persons conditionally released to the community by the court, the Parole Commission, the Federal Bureau of Prisons, and military authorities. Officers recommend and implement conditions of release and monitor offenders’ compliance with those conditions. Officers also work with offenders to facilitate their reintegration into the community as law-abiding and productive members of society.

Supervision is a dynamic process throughout which officers are to keep informed and – consistent with the conditions of release and individual circumstances – intervene with strategies designed to manage risk and provide offenders with the tools and social services they may require to improve their conduct and condition. It is through such intervention in higher-risk cases that officers further the goal of public safety during the period of supervision and beyond. Officers carry out these responsibilities by assessing the risks, needs, and strengths of each offender to determine the appropriate level of supervision. The community is best served when positive behavior changes are integrated into an offender’s daily living. Research indicates that offender success, and consequently the reduction of risk to the community, is contingent upon improvement in key areas of an offender’s life. Officers maintain awareness of the behavior of those they supervise and, depending on the circumstances and condition of the case, implement restrictive and correctional strategies to encourage pro-social behavior and facilitate positive change. This multidimensional role does not mean that each officer is expected to be an expert in all areas. Rather, officers are to serve as participating case managers, aware of the strengths and limitations of their role, and knowledgeable of the range of expertise available in their offices and communities.

Desired Outcomes and Goals of Supervision

The desired outcomes of supervision are the execution of the sentence and the protection of the community by reducing the risk and recurrence of crime and maximizing offender success during the period of supervision and beyond. The goal in all cases is the successful completion of the term of supervision, during which the offender commits no new crimes; is held accountable for victim, family, community, and other court-imposed responsibilities; and prepares for continued success through improvements in his or her conduct and condition.

“Continued success” within the context of the criminal justice mission is refraining from further crime. Offenders “prepare for continued success” during the term of supervision by actively dealing with those circumstances that relate to future criminality. The federal supervision model is founded on the condition of release and comprised of both controlled and correctional strategies consistent with those conditions that are sufficient, but no greater than necessary, to facilitate achievement of the desired outcomes.

The officer’s responsibility within this model is to assess and manage risk by engaging in an ongoing process of investigation, assessment, planning, implementation, and evaluation that will start at or – for offenders coming from prison – before the beginning of the term of supervision and continue throughout the course of supervision. The purpose of this ongoing planning and evaluation process is to 1) assess the offender’s current level of risk of community safety or of otherwise not complying with the conditions of release; 2) use this information to develop a blend of controlling and correctional risk-management strategies appropriate to the level and type of any risk identified; and 3) revise the plan as necessary based on an evaluation of the offender’s conduct and progress towards desired outcomes. Controlling strategies serve the dual purpose of maintaining awareness of an offender’s activities and encouraging compliance. Correctional strategies are designed to provide the offender with additional information, skill, resources, and treatment for the purpose of facilitating positive behavioral change during the period of supervision and beyond. This two-pronged approach is also used to respond to any noncompliance with the conditions of supervision, simultaneously providing a negative consequence designed to deter further noncompliance and intervening to change the circumstances that led to the behavior.

The desired outcomes and goals of federal supervision are derived from the purposes to be served by the sentence imposed.


Statutory Purposes for Terms of Supervision

The Sentencing Reform Act, applicable to offenders who committed their offenses on or after November 1, 1987, made probation a sentence in its own right rather than the means by which the imposition or execution of a sentence to imprisonment is suspended. Probation is one of several options that a court, subject to sentencing guidelines, may impose to meet the following sentencing purposes set forth at 18 U.S.C. § 3553(a)(2):

  • to reflect the seriousness of the offense, to promote respect for the law, and to provide just punishment for the offense;
  • to afford adequate deterrence to criminal conduct;
  • to protect the public from further crimes of the defendant; and
  • to provide the defendant with needed education or vocational training, medical care, or other correctional treatment in the most effective manner.

Supervised Release
Supervised release is a sentence to a term of community supervision to follow a period of imprisonment. It is available for all offenders who committed their crimes on or after November 1, 1987, the effective date of the Sentencing Reform Act. (Note: In addition, under the Anti-Drug Abuse Act of 1986, certain drug offenses committed on or after October 27, 1986, were subject to the mandatory imposition of terms of supervised release. See Gozlon-Peretz v. United States (89-7370), 498 U.S. 395 (1991).) Unlike regular parole, supervised release is not a form of early release from prison, but rather a separate sentence imposed in addition to the sentence to imprisonment.

The court must impose a term of supervised release for first-time domestic violence offenders (18 U.S.C. § 3583[a]), for sex offenders as described in 18 U.S.C. § 3583(k), and for certain drug offenders. The court may, subject to sentencing guidelines, impose supervised release in other cases, giving consideration to the need for the sentence to meet the following purposes as set for at 18 U.S.C. § 3583(c):

  1. the nature and circumstances of the offense and the history and characteristics of the defendant;
  2. the need for the sentence imposed to:
    1. afford adequate deterrence to criminal conduct;
    2. protect the public from further crimes of the defendant; and
    3. provide the defendant with needed educational or vocational training, medical care, or other correctional treatment in the most effective manner;
  3. the kinds of sentence and the sentencing range established for —
    1. the applicable category of offense committed by the applicable category of defendant as set forth in the guidelines;
    2. in the case of a violation of probation or supervised release, the applicable guidelines or policy statements issued by the Sentencing Commission pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 994(a)(3), taking into account any amendments made to such guidelines or policy statements by act of Congress (regardless of whether such amendments have yet to be incorporated by the Sentencing Commission into amendments issued under 28 U.S.C. § 994[p]);
  4. any pertinent policy statement —
    1. issued by the Sentencing Commission pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 994 subject to any amendments made to such policy statement by act of Congress (regardless of whether such amendments have yet to be incorporated by the Sentencing Commission into amendments issued under 28 U.S.C. § 994[p]); and (B) that, except as provided in section 3742(g), is in effect on the date the defendant is sentenced.
  5. the need to avoid unwarranted sentence disparities among defendants with similar records who have been found guilty of similar conduct; and
  6. the need to provide restitution to any victims of the offense.

Consistent with the determinate sentencing system ushered in by the Sentencing Reform Act, punishment is not a purpose to be considered in the imposition of a discretionary term or of the conditions of any term of supervised release: This objective is to have been addressed in full by the imprisonment portion of the sentence.

Parole and Mandatory Release
Federal Offenders
Regular and mandatory release forms are forms of early release from prison through the exercise of discretion by the United States Parole Commission and the operation of the good-time laws that were in effect before the Sentencing Reform Act.

Note: In addition, certain pre-Sentencing Reform Act drug offenders were subject to mandatory add-on “special parole terms” to follow the term of imprisonment. These were replaced by mandatory terms of supervised release.

These terms are distinguished from either probation or supervised release in that parolees and mandatory releasees remain the legal custody of the Attorney General, serving a portion of their sentence of imprisonment in the community. The purposes to be served are thus identical to those for the original sentence.

Military Offenders
Since 1946, at the request of the now-defunct War Department, the federal probation system has supervised all military prisoners released on parole from United States disciplinary barracks and military prisoners who are confined to Federal Bureau of Prisons facilities. Parolees released from military prisons are under the general jurisdiction of the Department of Defense and the specific jurisdiction of each Clemency and Parole Board of the Departments of the Army, Air Force, and Navy. Military prisoners released from the Federal Bureau of Prisons facilities are under the jurisdiction of the United States Parole Commission.

On July 17, 2001, the Department of Defense amended its regulations to authorize mandatory supervised release for all prisoners who otherwise would be released from custody at their minimum release date without the benefit of supervision except where it is determined by the Service Clemency and Parole Boards to be inappropriate. The Department of Defense concluded that supervised release supervision of prisoners not granted parole prior to the minimum release date is a highly effective technique to provide an orderly transition to civilian life for released prisoners and to protect better the communities into which such prisoners are released.

The Department of Defense policy also authorized the United States Parole Commission to place Federal Bureau of Prisons military prisoners who are given early release through good time credits under mandatory supervision “as if on parole.” The United States Parole Commission revised its regulation to authorize supervision for military mandatory releasees under its jurisdiction. The policies of the Department of Defense and United States Parole Commission are not retroactive and therefore only affect military prisoners who have approved findings of guilt for offenses that occurred on or after August 16, 2001.

D.C. Offenders
On August 5, 2000, the Parole Commission assumed responsibility for D.C. Code offenders who are on parole or who are serving a term of supervised release imposed by the Superior Court of the District of Columbia. (Note: These responsibilities were transferred under the National Capital Revitalization and Self-Government Improvement Act of 1997 and the Sentencing Reform Emergency Amendment Act of 2000 (D.C. Code 24-133[c][2].)

United States probation officers have responsibility for supervising D.C. Code offender under the jurisdiction of the Parole Commission who are released to districts outside of the D.C. metropolitan area or who are serving mixed U.S. and D.C. Code sentences (18 U.S.C. §§ 3655 and 4203[b][4]).

Conditional Release
The Federal Courts Administration Act of 1992 authorized probation officers to supervise persons conditionally released under the provisions of 18 U.S.C. §§ 4243 [Hospitalization of a Person Not Found Guilty By Reason of Insanity] and 4246 [Hospitalization of a Person Found Guilty and Due for Release but Suffering from a Mental Disease or Defect.] Unlike probation, supervised release, or parole, conditional release is a civil rather than a criminal form of supervision. The Federal Bureau of Prisons may petition the court for the release of an individual under a prescribed regimen of medical, psychiatric, or psychological care. Under 18 U.S.C. §§ 4243 (f)(2) and 4246(e)(2), the court may order a conditional release upon finding that, under the prescribed regimen of care, the person no longer creates a substantial risk of bodily injury to another person or serious damage to the property of another.

Juvenile Supervision
Following an adjudication of delinquency, the court may place a juvenile delinquent on probation or impose a term of juvenile delinquent supervision to follow official detention. (Note: Juvenile delinquent supervision was added as a dispositional option by Section 12301 of the 21st Century Department of Justice Appropriations Authorization Act (Pub. Law No. 107-273 [Nov. 2, 2002]). All juvenile dispositions are limited by the lesser of ceilings established at 18 U.S.C. § 5037 or the maximum punishment that could be imposed on a similarly situated adult. Under the ceilings, no term of supervision may extend beyond the 21st birthday of juveniles under the age of 18. For those between the ages of 18 and 21, the maximum term of probation is three years and the maximum combined time of official detention and juvenile delinquent supervision is (1) five years for those whose delinquent behavior would have been classified as a Class A, B, or C felony, or (2) three years in other cases. (Note: 18 U.S.C. § 3563, which governs the imposition of conditions for adult probation, applies to both juvenile probation and juvenile delinquent supervision.)