Opportunity After Federal Prison

The United States Attorney for the District of New Jersey had some interesting comments about community release after incarceration. Normally, the American standard of criminal justice involves putting away the bad guys. After that, the narrative seems to stop.

Unfortunately for that narrative, and fortunately for defendants and inmates, nearly everybody that goes to prison gets release. What happens then? Most don’t know.

In early July, 2014 the United States Sentencing Commission released and confirmed their new drug guidelines that will not only make drug sentences shorter, but apply them retroactively (eventually)1.

Below is an excerpt from an opinion article written by the above-mentioned US Attorney regarding opportunities for inmates after they get released, but the entire piece entitled “Ex offenders get time, now they need opportunity” is worth a full read.

Every year, my office prosecutes several hundred defendants who have violated criminal laws passed by Congress. For most of those defendants, a term in federal prison is warranted. Whether they are public officials who betray their oaths, predators who threaten the safety of our neighborhoods and our children, or thieves who cheat the health care system, investors or the government — incarceration is the appropriate punishment.

But prison is usually not meant to last forever. More than 95 percent of federal prisoners will be released after serving their sentences. Altogether, 700,000 federal and state prisoners are released every year, along with millions more who stream through local jails.

Most return to their communities, trying to put their lives back together and avoid the pitfalls that got them in trouble. Bearing the stain of their convictions, they compete for jobs, look for housing and seek educational opportunities.

A staggering number don’t succeed. Nationally, two-thirds of people released from state prisons are arrested again; half of those will end up back inside. Forty percent of federal prisoners return to jail in the first three years.

This level of recidivism is unacceptable. Offenders, their families and their communities are devastated by it. Public safety suffers for it. And with more than $74 billion spent annually on federal, state and local corrections, we can’t afford it.

Prison alone isn’t enough. Any smart law enforcement model prevents crime by supporting ex-offenders. That is why my U.S. Attorney’s Office — along with federal judges, the federal public defender, and the U.S. Probation Office — began the “ReNew” program, a federal re-entry court in Newark. Those leaving federal prison at serious risk of reoffending are invited to participate.

They are closely supervised, meeting biweekly with federal Magistrate Judge Madeline Cox Arleo, our office, and the federal defenders, and more regularly with probation officers. And they are supported in obtaining housing, jobs, education, counseling and legal assistance. My office provides services to the team and participants and supervises research into the program’s efficacy.

This week, the judge will preside over the first graduation ceremony for those who have successfully completed 52 weeks in the program. It is a hugely inspiring milestone for everyone involved, but especially for the graduates reimagining their lives despite great adversity….

Recently, my office launched the New Jersey Re-entry Council, a partnership with acting New Jersey Attorney General John Hoffman, other federal and state agencies, and NGO community members to share resources and ideas.

But there is one more partner we need: you. Finding a job after release is the most important key to success. In a recovering economy, securing a job after prison can be especially difficult. If you have a company that can train or hire our participants, or if you have access to housing, we need to hear from you….

One of every 100 adults in the United States is behind bars. Most will come home. They will have paid their debt and need a chance to support themselves, their families and their communities. We can look at ex-offenders returning to our communities as a risk, or we can help give them that chance. The potential rewards for their lives, for the economy and for our safety are incalculable.

  1. The Sentencing Commission is using a phased and delayed approach to actually releasing inmates early from federal prison []

Support for Early Termination of Supervised Release

When asking a sentencing court to terminate a defendant’s supervision early, scoring points with objective facts is important. Many judges don’t see early termination as routine, and only grant these requests in exceptional cases.

What can change their mind? In part, convince judges that keeping you on supervision is expensive and dangerous. Sound impossible? Read on…

Protect the Public

Early Termination of Supervised Release

The US Courts puts out the Federal Probation Journal 3 times a year. This past fall, the Journal posted findings of a study comparing those on probation versus those on supervised release. It also compared those who were terminated early from supervised release to those who went full term. The results were pretty startling.

The article gets started this way:

UNDER 18 U.S.C. §§ 3564(c) and 3583(e)(1), the court may terminate terms of probation in misdemeanor cases at any time and terms of supervised release or probation in felony cases after the expiration of one year of supervision, if satisfied that such action is warranted by the conduct of an offender and is in the interest of justice. As such, early termination is a practice that holds promise as a positive incentive for persons under supervision and as a measure to contain costs in the judiciary without compromising the mission of public safety.

Those released early from supervision (regardless if that supervision was probation or supervised release) had half the re-arrest rate in the years after their early termination than those with natural expiration.

…almost 15 percent (14.7) of all cases in the study cohort had a new arrest and offenders who served their entire supervision term had a rate nearly twice that of the offenders who received early termination (19.2 percent to 10.2 percent, respectively). Similarly, the rearrest rates for both study groups for major offenses only were tabulated (see Table 6). When minor offenses are excluded, the recidivism rates for both early-term and full-term offenders are considerably lower, but the proportion of rearrests between the two groups is consistent. Only 5.9 percent of early-term offenders were rearrested for a major offense following their release from supervision compared to 12.2 percent of full-term offenders.

This isn’t a magic bullet, but it certainly furthers any argument toward gaining release from federal oversight.

Appeal Waivers and Supervised Release

Federal Plea Agreements

The Devil is in the Details

Over 95% of federal defendants plead guilty, according the the Bureau of Justice Statistics. Because of Bill Otis, Law Professor and contributor to Crime and Consequences, most plea agreements now come with appeal waivers: a waiver of the defendant’s right to appeal.

On the surface, at least to this blogger, the waiver of appeal would bar any appeal of conviction and sentence (except for maybe the habeas writ from 18 U.S.C. §2255). What about the imposed terms or conditions of Supervised Release? Are you barred from appealing or moving to change these?

This is one of those times that it really matters where you are convicted.

The Fifth Circuit – Out of Luck

From US. v. Scallon and Findlaw’s 5th Circuit Blog:

Unlike Cooley v. United States, in which the Fifth Circuit ruled that a waiver of appeal didn’t bar a defendant from appealing if he was “sentenced to a term of imprisonment based on a sentencing range that has subsequently been lowered by the Sentencing Commission,” there were no altered guidelines for supervised release in Scallon’s case.

Signing a plea agreement and waiver of appeal may get your client out of jail faster — or help him avoid jail altogether — but it also means he waives his right to appeal. Make sure your plea-bargaining clients understand that “waiver of appeal” is more than just terminology; in the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals, it’s binding on both the sentence and the supervised release terms.

The Third Circuit – Have at It

From U.S. v. Wilson and Findlaw’s 3rd Circuit Blog we get the opposite answer:

When a criminal defendant waives his right to appeal, the courts take him at his word that he is, in fact, waiving appeals.

A lot of the defendants don’t think that “waiving appeal” means what the courts think it means (Inconceivable!) and they appeal anyway. It usually doesn’t work. But a Third Circuit concluded this week that a waiver of appeal did not bar an appeal of an order modifying the terms and conditions of supervised release.

So there it is, a circuit split that helps some but not others. If you’re surprised at the 5th Circuit’s conservative reading of appeal waivers, then you must be new to the game. Anybody willing to take bets on the 9th?

Hilarity in a Federal Probation Revocation Hearing

“After violating the terms of his supervised release, Appellant was sentenced to prison and an additional period of supervised release, including special conditions. The Fifth Circuit found that the district court abused its discretion by imposing the special condition without demonstrating that the condition was reasonably related to statutory factors.”

The above quote comes from a federal probation revocation hearing, published online over at the Federal Criminal Appeals Blog, and is part of a larger (sometimes humorous) story of a man named Sammy Salazar (US v. Salazar, 5th Cir 2014). Mr. Salazar was serving a 10-year suspended sentence for third degree sexual abuse when he failed to register as a sex offender and earned himself a new felony.

Time served, plus fifteen (15) years of supervised release with a bunch of special conditions on his supervision. He appealed those special conditions and got a bunch removed.1

Later, Mr. Salazar assaulted somebody in his family2 and got his supervision revoked: prison for 12 months and 14 years of supervision.  Again along with a bunch of special conditions of supervision.

Defense attorney objected, and led to the funniest written exchange between judge and lawyer I’ve seen in a long time:

Judge : Counsel, I’m aware that this is what went up on appeal because they weren’t written at the time of the sentence. This is not the original sentence. This is a new sentence on revocation. I am adding these conditions. I may do so under the terms of the supervised release and a revocation. So these are additional conditions that I am imposing on the revocation.

Saad: Then Your Honor, we would object and make a new objection that they’re overly burdensome and …

Jude: Overruled, counselor.

Saad: …and…

Judge: Overruled.

Saad: Thank you, Your Honor.

Judge: Overruled.

The defense attorney pissed the judge off to the point where defense’s GRATITUDE was overruled. Well done counselor.

  1. Removal of these special conditions wasn’t because Salazar didn’t need them, or deserve them, it was simply because the judge ordered only a few of these special conditions out loud in court. The rest of the conditions were snuck in outside of oral orders and were thrown out by the Appeals Court. []
  2. without a doubt, Mr. Salazar isn’t a man I want to get to know. Most times, important decisions are made and important precedents are set because of very unlikeable characters such as Salazar []

Shadow Sentencing: The Imposition of Supervised Release

A paper posted to SSRN back a few weeks ago takes a close look at the imposition and issues surrounding federal supervised release. Nearly all visitors to PCR Consultants are supervised by the United States Probation Office (USPO) and want to know more. Want to find relief. We offer services that help former offenders get early release from supervision, but our goal is also to create some community.

After completing post incarceration supervision, there isn’t much a former offender hasn’t experienced with the criminal justice system. The entire paper is worth a read, but below is how it gets started:

More than 95 percent of people sentenced to a term of imprisonment in the federal system are also sentenced to a term of supervised release. Since it was first established in the late 1980s, nearly one million people have been sentenced to federal supervised release. The human and fiscal costs of this widespread imposition are significant. Supervised release substantially restricts an individual’s liberty and people on supervised release receive diminished legal and constitutional protections. The fiscal costs of supervised release are also high, particularly when almost one third of people on supervised release will have their supervision revoked and will return to prison.

Despite the importance of supervised release, little is known about how and why sentencing judges impose supervised release and what purpose it is supposed to serve in the federal criminal justice system. In most cases, supervised release is not mandatory and yet judges consistently fail to exercise their discretion in this area and impose supervised release in virtually all cases. Based on an empirical study of sentencing decisions in the Eastern District of New York, this article uncovers previously unidentified features of supervised release. It finds that judges widely impose supervised release without any apparent consideration of the purpose served by the sentence. This article argues that supervised release is over-used and proposes a new framework for its imposition to ensure that courts only impose supervised release on people who need it.

You can download and read the entire 51 page piece by clicking this link.

Read more about supervision on this site by visiting our page dedicated to federal supervision.

Obama Clemency Plans for Hundreds of Drug Offenders

The title of this post comes from this Yahoo News article today. A new plan for Obama clemency policy is going to be official. Below is how the article gets started:

 

Barbara Scrivner’s long quest for mercy tests a president’s will — and her own faith

DUBLIN, Calif—Scrawled on the inside of Barbara Scrivner’s left arm is a primitive prison tattoo that says “Time Flies.”

If only that were the case.

For Scrivner, time has crawled, it’s dawdled, and on bad days, it’s felt like it’s stood completely still. She was 27 years old when she started serving a 30-year sentence in federal prison for selling a few ounces of methamphetamine. Now, 20 years later, she feels like she’s still living in the early ’90s—she’s never seen or touched a cellphone, she still listens to her favorite band, the Scorpions, and she carefully coats her eyelids in electric blue eye shadow in the morning.

It’s out there, outside of prison, where time flies.

On a sunny afternoon at a federal prison outside San Francisco last month, Scrivner nervously clutched a manila envelope full of photos of herself and her daughter that she keeps in her cell. As she displays the pictures, Scrivner’s daughter Alannah, who was just 2 years old when her mom was put away, changes from a redheaded, freckled young kid to a sullen teen to a struggling young mom. Scrivner changes in the photos, too. At first she’s a plump-cheeked beauty with chestnut-brown hair, then she’s a bleached-blonde woman in her early 30s, before becoming increasingly gaunt as the years grind on.

Today, she most resembles a 40-something high school volleyball coach, in her grey sweatshirt and neatly brushed-out dark bangs. But instead of a whistle around her neck, Barbara wears a large silver crucifix — though she describes her relationship with God as “complicated.”

“I believe in God,” Scrivner says. “I’m really mad with him.”

Her faith has helped her to try to make sense of what feels like an arbitrarily, even cruelly long sentence for her minor role helping her drug dealer husband. But 20 years behind bars has also tested that faith, and even caused her to question whether her life has any meaning or is worth living.

Read the rest of this great article.

A Good Week For Federal Probation Termination

The Feeling of Freedom after federal probation termination

Here at PCR Consultants we periodically like to share our success stories with readers and future clients. Since the launch of our Federal Supervision Release services, we have seen a large increase in the number of visitors seeking federal probation termination (that’s the official term for early release from federal probation) and a lot of their successes are coming in.

In the week of March 11-17th, 2013 two such success stories came to us back-to-back. Their release dates are over three weeks apart, but we heard the news last week. With the permission of the clients, we’ve published one testimonial and both of their release orders below. (Names and case numbers are redacted per client request).

Successes

These are just the first few:

Our first client was one of the first to sign up and use our online document services to prepare his Motion to Terminate Supervised Release. His motion was filed on 12/3/12, termination order was issued on 1/18/13. That is 46 days from filing to early termination of federal supervised release.

For those that keep track, he served just over 23 out of 48 months on supervision. Its great news when we see clients release before even serving half their term! Take a look at his release order.

Our second client success story of the week petitioned outside of her supervisory district because court oversight was never transferred to where she lived and was supervised. She served 41 months out of 48, and was released on 2/13/13 (docketed filing date not specified on record). Take a look at her release order.

She even supplied a testimonial, which she has allowed us to publish as well:

“My name is [withheld] & I am writing to say thanks for your assistance on my Motion for Early Termination of Supervised Release. I talked to & worked a lot with Eric prior to obtaining PCR’s assistance as well as after hiring the company. I am pleased to inform you that the motion for Early Termination of Supervised Release was granted and I am no longer under supervision or in care of the federal government or a probation officer. Originally, I had wanted to file in Colorado Springs rather than the state I was convicted in (NE) & for good reasons but unbelievably NE granted the termination & I have the papers to prove it, lol. Thank You (everyone involved) for all your help! I will be letting others know and referring your business to those who, like myself, are just a waste of time and taxpayers money. Sincerely,
[withheld]”

Thank you for those kind words!

Revoking Federal Supervised Release

This article is a bit old, but we dug it up out of the archives from the Kansas Federal Defender Blog. Sentences handed down after revoking federal supervised release and probation can be run consecutively, even if the court re-starts supervision post-release.

However, this isn’t necessary, as revocation sentences for supervised release and probation violations are not mandatory. Just like regular sentences after U.S. v. Booker, these guidelines in USSG §7B1.3(f) are advisory, and have been even before Booker.

Here is the meat of the article:

Here are a couple of points about supervised release revocations, some good and some bad:

Concurrent sentences are allowed. The ‘mandatory’ part: the violation report will say that a SRV sentence “shall be ordered to be served consecutively to any sentence of imprisonment that the defendant is serving,” whether or not related to the SRV, citing §7B1.3(f). Sounds kinda mandatory, doesn’t it? But not so.

The ‘advisory’ part: Even before Booker, the revocation guidelines were only advisory because the Commission issued only policy statements rather than actual guidelines (the SRV report usually notes this when advising that the Court that it can go ‘outside’ the range without notice, citing the upward departure case of Burdex). Still, the question often arises whether concurrent sentences are permissible. The Tenth Circuit says yes , the district court has discretion to impose concurrent sentences, not withstanding the advisory mandate of §7B1.3(f), as this is allowed by 18 USC §3584.

Timing is Everything. Nice published opinion from the 10th Cir this week in US v. Crisler , which rebuffed the Court/USPO’s attempt to revoke a defendant after supervision had expired, even though revocation proceedings were pending. Citing 18 U.S.C. § 3565(c),

“the court cannot revoke probation after the term of probation has expired unless (1) the delay in revocation was reasonably necessary and (2) a warrant or summons issued before the expiration date. Neither condition was met here. It is undisputed that the amended petition for revocation was filed after the probation term had expired. And even if the “amended” petition is deemed to relate back to the original petition of April 5, 2006, with respect to the alcohol-related allegation, it was not “reasonably necessary” to delay revocation until after expiration of the term of probation.”

The same language applies to SRV’s, per 18 USC §3583(e) and (i).

Not so nice. A recent guideline amendment, effective 11.1.2006, imposed or perhaps clarified, that three offense levels should be added when an offense was committed on PRETRIAL release, USSG §3C1.3. (Btw, to avoid confusion, USSG here refers to the guidelines, not the other USSG, United Skates School Group.) This attempts conformance with 18 USC §3147, usually referenced at the Rule 5 when released on bond. Remember, ‘appropriate sentencing notice’ must be provided before this three levels applies, but the Rule 5 advice may serve as notice, US v. Browning. 61 F3d 752 (10th Cir 1995).

This article is a bit more legally technical than the average blog post here at PCR Consultants, but the content is good and can be very important.

Avoiding violations is always best, but not always easy. E-mail us if you need some solid information regarding supervised release, and how to keep out of trouble.

Ending Federal Probation in the Age of Sequestration

Update: 4/21/14

It seems as though Sequestration changed the way many probation departments handled early release requests. For most of Summer/Fall 2013, probation officers were ending federal probation early for their supervisees on their own request. However, it seems that this trend is waning and there is a heightened need for do-it-yourself motions. E-mail us or give us a call to find out how to do this!

Ending Federal Probation Early – The New Game

The topic of the federal budget sequestration hasn’t arisen much in the news much since early Spring. However, it is important to know that these distasteful budget cuts are still in effect, and will seemingly remain in effect for the near future.

In a time where government budgets are stretched, nowhere is this more apparent than in the federal justice system. Dated August 13, 2013 a letter was sent to congress signed by 87 Chief District Judges that dealt specifically with the budget cuts the Sequestration has made to the federal judiciary.

Here’s the most interesting part for those seeking federal probation termination:

“As a result of sequestration, funding allocations sent out to court units were cut 10 percent below the fiscal year 2012 level. Clerks of court and probation and pretrial services offices will downsize by as many as 1,000 staff during fiscal year 2013 due to this reduction in funding. Staffing in these same offices has been reduced by nearly 2,100 staff between July 2011 and July 2013, representing a 10 percent staffing loss to the Judiciary over this two-year period. Our current staffing level is the lowest it has been since 1999 despite significant workload growth during this same period of time. In addition to downsizing, the courts have already incurred 4,500 furlough days as of June 2013, and an additional, 4,100 furlough days are projected by the end of the fiscal year.”

. . . and later:

“Funding cuts to the Judiciary have also put public safety at risk. The Judiciary employs nearly 6,000 law enforcement officers—probation and pretrial services officers—to supervise individuals in the community after they have been convicted of a crime and subsequently released from prison, as well as defendants awaiting trial. The number of convicted offenders under the supervision of federal probation officers hit a record 187,311 in 2012 and is on pace to reach 191,000 by 2014. At a time when the workload in our probation and pretrial offices continues to grow, budget cuts have reduced funding allocations to these offices by 10 percent. Staffing in probation and pretrial services offices is down nearly 600 (7 percent) since 2011.”

Hit ‘Em Where it Hurts

No matter the political leaning of a specific judge, the fact that 87 out of 94, or 92.5%, Chief judges signed this letter1 shows that budget problems have their attention.

The one place judges can agree, and where a probationer (or those on federal supervised release) can focus on, is the Court’s pocketbook. Want to hit ’em where it hurts? Try the wallet.

 

PCR Consultant’s Probation Termination service

This, like many other current issues that affect the federal courts, is used to its maximum effectiveness in each of our client’s services. When the goal is ending federal probation early, using as many arguments like this as possible only helps. If you want to get started on the road to terminating federal supervised release early, click here.

  1. When, as federal district judge Richard G. Kopf (NE) said in this article about the letter “As a former Chief District Judge, I know that you can almost never get 87 Chief District Judges to agree about when the sun comes up. The fact that 87 of them wrote the foregoing letter to Congress ought to make clear that the federal district courts are inches away from disaster. Congress is on the brink of intentionally wrecking the federal trial courts. Will sanity prevail?” []

What Happens After Federal Prison

Pre-Release

After federal prison, an inmate is either sent to a federal half-way house, or placed directly on Supervised Release (Federal Probation is reserved for those who never received a prison sentence). An inmate, while in the halfway house, is still under the custody of the federal Bureau of Prisons and can therefore be subject to release or relief in the same way they were while incarcerated (see Incarceration). Anything from home-confinement to early release is possible from a half-way house. PCR Consultants can help.

Post-Release, and Supervised Release

After full release from the BOP into the hands of the local United States Probation Office, a former federal inmate has years of probation((called Supervised Release)) to deal with. Supervised release comes with a host of general and specific rules that must be followed, or the supervisee faces more prison time. However, PCR Consultants can help you here too. From changing the terms of your release to better suit you to ending probation altogether, you can affect your own future and we can show you how.

Whether you need to modify (change or eliminate) a term of Supervised Release from your J & C Order, or motion to be released from Supervision altogether, PCR Consultants can put the right law and paperwork in your hands for a FRACTION of the cost of an attorney.

When on federal probation or supervised release (after federal prison time is served), the specific rules applied to each individual are unique. Most of the time these rules are lengthy and confusing so violations can occur accidentally by the probationer. Learn how to live on probation, how to be successful on probation, and how to structure actions to obtain your release sooner from supervision.

Get started today and be on your way to early termination in minutes!

Learn About Us

For ways to contact us, visit our contact us page for contact form and e-mail addresses.

Learn about us and how our services work on our about page.