After an offender has plead guilty, or tried and found guilty, the Court will sentence the defendant to probation or to a term of incarceration followed by a term of supervised release. Probation is a Court ordered sentence issued as an alternative to jail or prison. Individuals under supervision (probation or supervised release) are assigned to a Probation Officer, who is responsible for monitoring offenders and ensuring they comply with the conditions ordered by the Court.
In the federal courts, supervision is:
- a core responsibility of U.S. probation and pretrial services officers, along with investigation.
- a way to monitor the activities and behavior of people released to the community by the federal courts or paroling authorities.
- an opportunity to help offenders reintegrate into the community following a period of incarceration.
- in the case of probation, a punishment that is less severe than imprisonment, but still holds people accountable for breaking the law.
- an alternative to jail or prison that costs less than incarceration and gives people charged with or convicted of federal crimes the opportunity to live with their families, hold jobs, and be productive members of society.
Conditions of Supervision
At the start of an offender’s supervision, a probation officer will review with the offender the conditions of his or her release. These conditions include the Standard Conditions of supervision which the Court imposes on all offenders, and may include Discretionary, or Special, Conditions which the Court imposes to provide Probation Officers with the authority to address risk related issues specific to a particular offender which vary from case to case. Discretionary may include, among other things, home detention, substance abuse testing or treatment, mental health treatment, and the disclosure of financial information.
Process of Supervision
The process of supervising an offender begins with a probation officer evaluating the offender through an interview and risk assessment tool, which allows the officer to identify factors that must be taken into account in developing the offender’s individualized supervision plan. Throughout supervision, the officer will assess and reassess the potential risk that an offender poses to themselves, another person, or the community, and address the offender's other needs. Continued assessments allow the probation officer to adjust his or her personal contact and interventions with the offender accordingly. The supervision plan developed by the officer will address any obstacles that may impede an offender’s ability or desire to complete supervision successfully and will provide for services, such as substance abuse or mental health treatment that the offender may require.
Resentencing may occur to adjust a criminal sentence pursuant to a federal statute or rule, a remand on appeal, or to correct an error with the original judgment.
Offenders can be sentenced to additional incarceration, home confinement, or other conditions if they violate the court-ordered conditions of their supervision or probation.
According to federal statue, all offenders are eligible for early release after one year of supervision; however, it is the decision of the sentencing judge. These decisions are made on a case-by-case basis, and they will involve the input of the U.S. Attorney's Office. This process also underscores the importance of compliance on supervision and of offenders having a good working relationship with their officer.