Prisonology interviews Jay, a former inmate, on his U.S. Probation Supervised Release experience.
After completing your term of incarceration, federal sentences usually have a term of probation known as Supervised Release. The program in overseen by the U.S. Probation Office in the district where you will be living. While you get to enjoy most every aspect of freedom, there are still rules that you must abide by and you must remain in contact with a probation officer. In this section we will go over those rules and provide some insight into dealing with your probation officer.
During your first meeting with U.S. Probation, you need to listen to the terms of your probation as dictated by your Judgement and Commitment Order. If you have an opportunity, you need to review that prior to showing up for your meeting.
Bring any receipts for payments of fines, restitution or court assessments you already have paid (cancelled check). The BOP can print a copy of Inmate Financial Responsibility Program prior to your release.
If you have any doctors appointments or necessary travel outside of the district, bring those to the attention of the probation officer at the initial meeting. Vacation or visiting family is not going to be approved for a number of months and asking could negatively affect your relationship with the probation officer.
Never, never, never travel outside of your district without permission. Minor incidences like car trouble or a traffic ticket could have dire consequences for someone outside of the district without permission.
Any contact with law enforcement has to be reported, no matter how minor.
You are not allowed to be in contact with those who have a felony. If this does occur, be truthful in your monthly reporting about it and disclose.
You can get off of Supervised Release under certain conditions, so do not be hesitant about asking. However, you should not expect release if you have restitution or community service.
Be truthful about your community service hours and really do the work. For the most part, these hours are monitored but not closely. However, you do not want to be violated for lying about your work.
Try to interface as little as possible with U.S. Probation. Frequently asking for permissions to travel or change jobs or living addresses is not going to put you in the good graces of Probation. Try to maintain a simple life that requires few requests for permission.
If you owe restitution or outstanding Court obligations, pay specific attention to AO 245 Form that set forth conditions about financial disclosure, ability to open new lines of credit and restrictions on entering into financial obligations.
Be honest with your Probation Officer on your finances, living situation and contact with law enforcement. They use services like Choice Point (search engine for properties, assets)
Scott Long, U.S. Probation Officer (retired) Supervised Release
"First, the relationship an offender develops with his/her officer begins while a person is still incarcerated. Specifically, the release planning process will set the tone with an officer. If an incarcerated person submits an incomplete Release Plan to Probation, it raises “red flags.” Also, more often than not, a person scheduled for release may provide a release residence that does not exist or plan to reside with someone who does not know them or does not want them in their home. On that note, it is imperative for persons preparing for release to submit truthful and accurate release plans. They should also have a back-up plan if the initial plan is denied.
Another important expectation is honesty. Officers are hopeful that offenders on supervision are honest with them. For example, if an offender has a drug use relapse, there is no benefit in trying to lie about it to the officer when a lab test will prove that the person used illicit substances. In many cases, drug use or many other problems can be dealt with when offenders are honest with their officers.
As simple as is it sounds, officers will expect offenders to abide by all standard and special conditions of supervision. This may prove difficult for some but officers expect some effort in this area. Furthermore, if an offender is given a specific time for an office appointment, officers expect offenders to be on time, so never be late. My suggestion would be to show up at least fifteen minutes early to all appointments with your officer."
R.B (Former Inmate) Supervised Release
"When I was first on supervised release [within the first 2 months] I was invited to go to a business conference that I believed would have helped me professionally. I asked permission via email, then when I did not get an immediate response I followed up again with substantial documentation as to why this conference was so important to me. My Probation Officer got back with me and had a major blowup and it was denied. Her comments were along the lines of “This is a relationship of trust. You just got released a few months ago. We build trust and that takes time.” I did not get to go on the trip but I learned a valuable lesson which was ‘don’t move faster than my probation officer.‘ I wanted to get on with my life and I wanted to start doing it now, on my own time frame.
I have been out almost a year. The first month I had to go in several times and do drug tests even though I was not on a drug charge. I have to go in once a month - provide a report of all the money earned. I have not had to do any drug test since the first month or so. My PO has come to my office once and met my manager - I work for the state. My PO came out to the house a couple of months ago but no one was home and he just left a note that he had been there. I called him and it was no big deal. My judge ordered mental health care after release so I have been going to sessions twice a month for the past 8 months. I guess this will keep up for 3 years as it is a money making racket for the therapist as we just discuss what is going on and the weather, etc. This therapy is a joke. I was informed this past week that they are starting a group that I will be required to attend. Of course, with me living so far from the town this session is in, I will have a 3 hours wait from the time I get off work until the session starts and it will put me getting home about 9-10 at night. Oh well, at least my probation is 1/3 of the way thru.
After some time went by, over 6 months, and I’ve needed to travel and I provided 2 months notice to get permission for a trip and she [probation] approved it immediately.
You need to understand the probation officer's priorities for your case ... what they think is important. For my probation officer it was “getting a job”. The job I got was slightly above minimum wage and it is miserable, but because I have that job it makes the rest of my life both pleasant and manageable. I’m off the radar. Try to understand what is important to your probation officer, because they will tell you. You’re not the first guy that comes out thinking that ‘hey, I’m free and can do what I want,” then you get spanked down because you know what? You’re not free, this is supervised release. Once you report to your probation officer their thinking is that you are going to be trouble until you prove to them differently, and that takes time and action. Don’t think that you’re special.
The less you communicate the better but when you communicate be honest. Your probation officer is supervising many more people than you, so don’t communicate by email as if it is a text messenger you can send every little request whenever you want. Group requests together, make sure that your interaction is professional and that you are not bugging your probation officer with small things every day. As I was asking my probation officer about if I could travel to a symposium she said, ‘Look, I’m currently working with local police to try to find someone under my supervision who I haven’t heard from in a few months. You are the least of my worries right now.' I want to keep it that way."