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.

Clear Views on Supervised Release from the Seventh Circuit

Terms and Length of Supervision

It can be difficult to find discussions at the appellate level of district court obligations when deciding how to impose length and conditions of supervised release. It can be harder still to force a discussion at all from a district court at sentencing to understand the thought process behind these decisions.

On October 18, 2012 the Seventh Circuit published this short opinion in the case of US v. Quinn No. 12-2260 (7th Cir. Oct. 18, 2012). Its short length is reprinted in its entirety below.

Quinn asked the judge to choose a ten-year term of supervised release. He submitted a forensic psychologist’s evaluation, which concluded that he has a lower than- normal risk of recidivism. He also submitted the testimony that two psychologists (Michael Seto and Richard Wollert) recently had presented to the Sentencing Commission regarding the recidivism rate for persons convicted of child-pornography offenses…. [But] the district judge did not discuss either the length of supervision or the terms that Quinn would be required to follow while under supervision.

The prosecutor has confessed error, and we agree with the prosecutor’s conclusion that a district judge must explain important decisions such as the one at issue here. On remand the judge should consider not only how Quinn’s arguments about recidivism affect the appropriate length of supervised release, but also the interaction between the length and the terms of supervised release. The more onerous the terms, the shorter the period should be. One term of Quinn’s supervised release prevents contact with most minors without advance approval. Quinn has a young child, whom he has never been accused of abusing. Putting the parent-child relationship under governmental supervision for long periods (under this judgment, until the son turns 18) requires strong justification.

Our research has turned up only a few decisions that discuss the relation between the terms and length of supervised release. The third circuit has observed that the more onerous the term, the greater the justification required — and that a term can become onerous because of its duration as well as its content…. Rules that allow public officials to regulate family life likewise call for special justification, and lifetime regulatory power is hard to support when the defendant has not been convicted of crimes against his family or other relatives. Other terms of Quinn’s supervised release also may require strong justification when extended for a lifetime.

Although district judges can reduce the length of supervised release, or modify its terms, at any time, 18 U.S.C. §3583(e) — an opportunity that may lead a judge to think that uncertainties at the time of sentencing should be resolved in favor of a long (but reducible) period — still this is a subject that requires an explicit decision by the judge after considering the defendant’s arguments. The judge also should consider the possibility of setting sunset dates for some of the more onerous terms, so that Quinn can regain more control of his own activities without needing a public official’s advance approval, while enough supervision remains to allow intervention should Quinn relapse.

Take Aways

Most notably in this decision, at least in this bloggers opinion, is the call1 for “sunset dates” on the more onerous terms of supervised release. Naturally, the longer a released inmate spends on supervision without incident, the less restrictive and intrusive the terms of release should be (considering the goal of supervision is re-integration back into the community.

Applause goes to the 7th Circuit for hitting this issue head-on and laying out very simple-to-understand guidance for district courts regarding the imposition of federal supervised release or probation.

Ending Supervised Release Early

Of course, there is no need to ever complete a full term of supervision, as seen in the last paragraph of the opinion above. Trouble is, though most people on federal supervision know that ending supervised release early can be done, most don’t know how and won’t pay a lawyer a ton of money to get it done. The cost can outweigh the benefit.

Fortunately, PCR Consultants (that’s us) have been helping people for the last 3 years accomplish this task on their own, at the fraction of the cost of an attorney doing it for you. All that is necessary is to represent yourself on paper and file a request like this to the supervising court.

Learn more by reading our e-book. Start the process of ending your supervision now by contacting us by e-mail or phone (or our contact submission form) today.

  1. Written by Chief Judge Esterbrook for the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals []

Little Known Factors for Ending Federal Probation Early

Approval for Ending Federal Probation EarlyThere’s No “Sure Thing”

There is no silver bullet to getting ending federal probation early, no guarantees that any applicant for early release from supervision will have his or her request granted. That decision, in all cases, is ultimately up to the judge. There are, however, some little known facts that can help those on supervision get an edge that other applicants don’t have.

The Good News

Secret #1: There are different levels of supervision, and Judges care!
The United States Probation Office is the supervising authority over all federal cases and defendants sentenced to probation or supervised release. Within that office are policies that govern how intensely clients are supervised.

“How long has it been since you’ve see your PO?”

 

Secret #2: The Sentencing Commission is now ENCOURAGING judges to terminate supervision terms!

 

On November 1, 2011, this year’s amendments to the Sentencing Guidelines Manual became active. One major amendment concerned Supervised Release. It did lots of things like reduce the term of supervision on different felony classes and discuss supervision of deportable aliens. Stuff like that. More importantly, though, was the Commission’s new stance on Early Terminations.

 

Read More About Ending Federal Probation Early

There are 17 other factors in statute and policy that guide judges to their decisions in ending federal probation early. Read more about these statutory factors and policy factors on the probation termination section of our blog**

You can read, free of charge, our comprehensive e-book on terminating federal supervised release and probation by clicking here.

Early Termination of Federal Probation – Policy Factors

Early Termination of Federal Probation – The Policy That Guides Judges

Post #2 of a 3-Part Series

In this previous post on early termination of federal probation, we discussed the factors judges must consider by law when deciding whether or not to let somebody on federal supervision go early. In this post we’ll discuss the policy factors judges consider when making these decisions.

These policy factors are those that probation officers use when asked to make a recommendation regarding early termination of federal supervision. They are the standards adopted by the Judicial Conference Committee on Criminal Law in March of 2003.

Policy Factors

There are nine of these policy factors, and each take a closer look at the offender

A close look at these factors show that there are a lot of areas to consider when attempting to terminate a term of federal supervision. The entire history of an offender is considered. Find out about these factors by reading our e-book specifically about early termination of federal probation.

You can read our comprehensive e-book on early termination of federal probation here.

Those that haven’t gotten into any trouble while on supervision, don’t see their Probation Officer’s more than just a few times per year, and are a complete waste of time and money for the government to continue to supervise, have the greatest chance for early termination.

There are however, two factors not shown here than make the biggest difference. In the next post, we’ll take a look at both.

Early Release from Federal Probation – What Judges Must Consider

Early Release from Federal Probation

Post #1 of a 3-Part Series

In this first part to our series on early release from federal probation early (or supervised release), we’ll take a close look at the statutory factors that judges must consider when somebody on supervision asks for early termination. The only unbreakable rule here is that one year of supervision must expire before anybody can motion for early termination. The rest is up to the judge.

The next installment deals with the factors by policy that judges do, or may, consider.

Judicial Considerations by Law

Most of the factors judges must use to determine an appropriate sentence1 are also required to be used when terminating part of that sentence. Since probation and supervised release are part of a sentence, terminating them early is the same thing as reducing sentences.

Title 18 U.S.C. §3582(a) says that:

“(a) Factors To Be Considered in Imposing a Term of Imprisonment.— The court, in determining whether to impose a term of imprisonment, and, if a term of imprisonment is to be imposed, in determining the length of the term, shall consider the factors set forth in section 3553 (a) to the extent that they are applicable, recognizing that imprisonment is not an appropriate means of promoting correction and rehabilitation. In determining whether to make a recommendation concerning the type of prison facility appropriate for the defendant, the court shall consider any pertinent policy statements issued by the Sentencing Commission pursuant to 28 U.S.C. 994 (a)(2).” (emphasis added)

So what are these factors? You can read what these factors are in the law here.

For a detailed review and discussion of what these factors mean, read our comprehensive e-book on terminating federal supervised release and probation here.

The best news, however is a 2011 amendment to the Guidelines Manual where the USSC2 specifically encourages judges grant early release from federa

l probation in specific cases. This is the first time they’ve every encouraged early termination of supervision at all.

What this all means

Not since the 80’s has there been a more advantageous time in the federal system to get released early from supervision. Whether on probation or supervised release, the USSC has realized that probation officers have too many people to supervise, and no budget to hire more probation officers. So the logical conclusion is to cut low-risk people free from supervision!

Get Started Today

To get started with your early termination documents now, contact us by e-mail or phone to get the process going. Its fast and easy!

 

Read our free e-book on the A-to-Z of federal probation and supervision!

  1. At least what is legally considered an appropriate sentence []
  2. United States Sentencing Commission []

US Sentencing Commission Posts 2011 Amendments

New 2011 Amendments from U.S.S.C.

With October upon us, and November first rapidly approaching, PCR Consultants is starting a yearly tradition of breaking down this year’s amendments to the United States Sentencing Guidelines as published by the US Sentencing Commission (U.S.S.C.). Each year, these amendments become active on the first day of November.

To find out how PCR Consultants can help you take advantage of these new amendments, contact us for a free consultation at (480) 382-9287.

Here is a breakdown of the Amendments, what changed, and how they may help or hurt federal defendants, inmates, and those on probation.

The Amendments

Fair Sentencing Act: The Commission re-submitted its changes to crack cocaine sentencing guidelines per the Fair Sentencing Act of 2010. On June 30, 2011 the Commission voted unanimously to make the guidelines changes retroactive. Read more on our Crack Cocaine Sentence Reductions page.

Supervised Release: Learn more about getting early release from federal probation or supervised release with the help of PCR Consultants on our Early Termination Page. This year, four changes were made to Supervised Release and federal Probation:

  1. Deportable Aliens: This change effectively eliminates Supervised Release for defendants who are not required it by law, and are likely to be deported after imprisonment;
  2. Lesser Terms of Supervised Release: The Commission lowered the minimum term of Supervised Release under §2D1.2 from three years to two years from Class A and B felonies, and from 2 years to one year for Class C and D felonies;
  3. Guidance on Imposing Supervised Release Terms: The Commission added criminal history and substance abuse to what the court should consider in determining whether to impose supervised release, and for how long;1
  4. Early Termination of Supervised Release: §5D1.2, has been amended with language which specifically encourages courts to consider early termination of supervised release “in appropriate cases.” An example provided is a substance abuser who successfully completes a treatment program, “thereby reducing the risk to the public from further crimes of the defendant.”

Illegal Reentry: The Commission reduced but didn’t eliminate, the enhancements based on stale convictions or convictions that do not receive criminal history points under chapter 4 of the guidelines. This amendment also provides an upward departure if the new enhancement “does not adequately reflect the extent or seriousness of the conduct underlying the prior conviction.

Mitigating Role: This amendment changed the language of its notes to §3B1.2 (Mitigating Role) to encourage the courts to apply the adjustment therein. This amendment struck (1) from Application Note 3(c)2 and (2) from Application Note 43. This amendment encourages the court that it can, and should, give this adjustment when the only evidence of role rests upon circumstantial evidence and the defendant’s statement of his/her participation.

The US Sentencing Commission also changed the language of §1B1.3 (Relevant Conduct) to help clients who are charged with fraud crimes but benefited little from the overall fraud scheme.

Firearms: Guidelines §2K2.1 and §2M5.2 are changed for the worse. In §2K2.1, the Commission increased penalties for straw purchasers, added a 4-level enhancement (and floor of 18 points) when a defendant left or tried to leave the US while possessing any firearm or ammunition. There is, however, language for downward departure for straw purchasers who were motivated by an intimate or familiar relationship or by threats or fear to commit the offense, where no monetary benefit from the offense exists.

The changes to §2M5.2 raised penalties for cases involving small arms crossing the border, increasing the base offense level from 14 to 26 in cases involving more than two (changed from 10) non-fully automatic small arms.

Fraud: Responding to new health care legislation, §2B1.1 was amended in two ways. First, tiered enhancements for loss amounts of over $1 million were added. Second, a new rule for loss amounts in healthcare fraud cases was added, but is arguable.

Child Support: Defendants convicted of willful failure to pay court-ordered child support are no longer subject to a 2-level enhancement under §2B1.1(b)(8)(C).

Drug Disposal Act: This final amendment broadens the list of people who can be subject to an enhancement for abusing a position of trust or use of a special skill. This is ordinarily used in drug offenses.

**************************

  1. Adding these to the statutory factors set forth in 18 U.S.C. §3583 []
  2. Stating that the court “is not required to find, based solely on the defendant’s bare assertion, that such a role adjustment is warranted” []
  3. The statement: “It is intended that the downward adjustment for minimal participant will be used infrequently []

Federal Supervised Release

Your First Days On Federal Supervised Release

After the prison walls are left behind, after the (hopefully) 6 months spent in a halfway house are finished, the feeling of freedom can be incredible. However, that feeling is usually short-lived with the first visit to the United States Probation Office. Although free of all the rules associated with the Bureau of Prisons, an entirely new set of regulations to abide by.

To begin with, a former inmate on federal supervised release will have a set of standard conditions of release. These include rules that apply to all probationers such as monthly reports, financial disclosures, travel restrictions, firearm prohibitions, and other issues of a general nature. A second set of rules will follow this one, and is specifically designed for each crime of conviction. Drug tests, home inspection details, treatment requirements, etc will all be a part of this second set of conditions.

These conditions are not static and can change as supervision progresses. A change in circumstance or Probation Officer can bring new conditions with it. On the other hand, unnecessary or boilerplate restrictions can be removed (with good reason) with a standard motion to the court. Avoid making the mistake of believing that the rules, and the Probation Officer, you start out with are going to stay that way until released from supervision.

Supervision on a Daily Basis

In every day life, the supervising officer makes little impact on an individual on federal supervised release. Policy normally dictates that an officer sets eyes on their ex-offenders once a month at the least. Post-release treatment will most likely have a much larger impact on daily life. Treatment for drug offenders can be very different, from in-patient facilities to mandated AA/NA types of meetings. If fines, restitution, or special assessments have not been paid, the PO will be very interested and ‘involved’ in your case until those are paid off.

**Important Note: If you plan on applying for early release from federal supervised release, community service and any money owed to the government should be completed and paid before a judge will consider the request**

Expect the first few months of freedom to be much more active months with a supervising officer than normal. After three to four months, without any incidents, violations or trouble, you will drop off their radar and see/hear very little from United States Probation.

 

You’re welcome to reprint these articles on your website and in your e-newsletters free of charge, provided that you don’t change the article in any way and you include the byline (including a link to our website) In doing so you agree to indemnify PCR Consultants and its directors, officers, employees, and agents from and against all losses, claims, damages and liabilities that arise out of their use. Unless otherwise noted, all content copyright © 2010-2011 PCR Consultants