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.

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