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Lawmakers Propose To Limit Long 'Supervised Releases'

When Daniel Brown was released from federal prison in 2020 15 years into a 42-year sentence for drug and firearm possession offenses, he was determined not to squander the chance he had been given. He's a project manager at a construction company and married with children. Brown was also sentenced to 10 years of supervision after his release. He's subject to numerous rules and monitoring by federal probation officers: random drug tests, restrictions on travel, and required pre-approval for basic adult freedoms. When Brown wants to take a weekend trip to visit his daughter out-of-state, he must fill out a form stating where he is going, where he will be staying, and who will be there, and get it approved. One slip-up could send him back to prison for the rest of that long, long sentence. Unless something changes, Brown will keep jumping through those hoops because there's no practical way for him to get his supervision terminated early, reports Reason.

When it started in 1984, federal supervised release was supposed to be used sparingly to keep tabs on offenders who were public safety concerns or needed extra support to transition back into society. Now, it is used by default, and both criminal justice advocates and federal probation officers say it's clogging the system with thousands of people, like Brown, who have demonstrated that they probably don't need to be in it. It's sending many others back to prison for minor rule violations that might not warrant such a harsh response.

This growing consensus has led to the Safer Supervision Act, a bill introduced by Sens. Chris Coons (D–DE) and John Cornyn (R-TX), Reps. Wesley Hunt (R–TX) and Sheila Jackson Lee (D–TX) have introduced a companion bill in the House. The legislation would streamline the federal supervised release system to give people like Brown a clear off-ramp to earn their way out. The bill would require courts to conduct individual assessments of the appropriateness of imposing supervision.


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A daily report co-sponsored by Arizona State University, Criminal Justice Journalists, and the National Criminal Justice Association

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