The Standard for Federal Supervised Release
A few years ago, the Seventh Circuit published an order clearly showing their views on the imposition and purpose of federal supervised release. That circuit is back at it again with an opinion on three separate cases, challenging their special conditions of supervised release. (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 begin, 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 meaning 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 simple. The end goal of supervised release are not to further punish the defendant, since that is what incarceration is for. The factors courts are mandated to when contemplating imposing a term of federal supervised release are almost the same as the ones 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 wants to ask the court 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 release is over, then there is no reason to keep a defendant on supervision any longer.
The real work is proving that this decompression stage is accomplished. From many 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 clean from crime and to maintain employment? Stability of a place to live and job are key indicators to a judge that a defendant poses 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 gain 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