The Standard for Federal Supervised Release
A few years ago, the Seventh Circuit published an opinion clearly stating their views on the practice and purpose of federal supervised release. That circuit is doing it again with an opinion regarding three distinct but related cases, challenging their supervised release conditions. (U.S. vs. Kappes, U.S. vs. Crisp, and U.S. vs. Jurgens; Nos. 14-1223, 14-2135, & 14-2482 respectively and decided April 8, 2015.)
Thanks to the Federal Criminal Appeals Blog for the head’s-up on this one.
There are some key points made by this ruling that anybody interested in the nuts-and-bolts of federal supervised release should be aware of. If you are on supervised release, or interested in the subject at all, the entire opinion is a must read.
The Purpose of Supervised Release
To start off with, the Circuit posted a history and usage overview of supervised release. The most interesting part of this section of the order is below:
“The purposes of supervised release have been variously described as rehabilitation, deterrence, training and treatment, protection of the public, and reduction of recidivism.” (United States v. Johnson, 529 U.S. 53, 59-60 (2000); United States v. Siegel, 753 F.3d 705, 708 (7th Cir. 2014); United States v. Evans, 727 F.3d 730, 733 (7th Cir. 2013))
The real meat of this point is clarified a little later.
“Supervised release was not intended to be imposed for the purposes of punishment or incapacitation, “since those purposes will have been served to the extent necessary by the term of imprisonment.” (S. Rep. No.98-225, at 125; see also Johnson, 529 U.S. 59 (“Supervised release fulfills rehabilitative ends, distinct from those served by incarceration.”)…see also 18 U.S.C. § 3583(c) (directing a court contemplating the imposition of supervised release to consider most sentencing factors set forth in 18 U.S.C. § 3553(a), except the need for the sentence to provide just punishment for the offense). The Supreme Court has described supervised release as “the decompression stage” between prison and full release.” (Johnson v. United States, 529 U.S. 694, 709 (2000))
What this says is basic. The goals of supervised release are not to further punish the defendant, since that is the purpose of incarceration, not supervision. The factors courts are required to when contemplating imposing a term of federal supervised release are almost the same as the factors they consider when imposing prison time. The only difference is that courts cannot consider the need for supervised release to provide just punishment for the offense.
The Meaning Behind the Purpose
Let us look at this from the perspective of one who desires to apply for early release from federal supervised release. If, 1) the purpose of supervised release is not to inflict more punishment for the underlying crime; and 2) the “decompression state” between prison and full freedom is accomplished, then there is no reason to keep a defendant on supervision any longer.
The hard part is proving that this decompression stage is over. From lots of prior 7th Circuit decisions, we have these factors that mark this decompression and satisfy that requirement. From the first quoted section, these five purposes of supervision are:
- Rehabilitation: have you completed all treatment and aftercare?
- Deterrence: are you effectively deterred from committing future federal crimes?
- Training and Treatment: do you have enough treatment and education to stay away from crime and to maintain employment? Stability of home and job are key indicators to a judge that you pose a low risk to commit new crimes. Sometimes it just matters how busy you are. Job? Kids? Wife/Husband? All these keep a person busy, and no idle time means no time to devote to criminal behavior. “Idle hands are the Devils’ playground” and all…
- Protection of the public: Again, this lends to treatment, stability, and reduced risk of committing new crimes.
- Reduction of recidivism: At this point it gets redundant, but explicit. What is your quantifiable risk to commit new crimes. If you have zero criminal history, this part is easy!
That’s All For Now
So far, we’ve only viewed about 6 pages of this 68-page opinion. However, this is plenty to digest for now. If you’re looking to get early release from federal probation or federal supervised release, consider the purpose of supervision and ask yourself if you’re finished with its intended goals. If so, you could be a prime candidate!
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Federal Supervised Release