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Preparation Prison Life After

02. Supervised Release

Early Termination

A federal Judiciary study of early termination of supervision of low-risk offenders shows that the practice not only saves money, it does so without compromising public safety. 

Three years after being released from supervision only 10.2 percent of early-term offenders had been rearrested, while 19.2 percent of full-term offenders were rearrested. Early termination is the policy of terminating a term of supervised release and discharging the defendant at any time after the expiration of one year of supervised release, providing certain criteria are met.

Early-term offenders save the probation and pretrial services system time when officers are no longer required to supervise them. Offenders receive early release from supervision an average of 15.7 months before their scheduled supervision term is set to expire. This, according to the report, allows districts to devote more resources to supervising and servicing offenders who are a greater risk to society.

Getting off of Supervised Release early can happen, even if you have restitution.  In 2003, the Judicial Conference approved a policy that encouraged Probation to seek early termination as soon as offenders were eligible and provided that he/she had satisfied the conditions of supervision, successfully reintegrated into the community, and did not pose a foreseeable risk to public safety.  In 2005, the Judicial Conference approved policy changes that allowed offenders with outstanding balances on fines and restitutions to be considered for early termination as long as they were otherwise suitable and in compliance with their payment schedule.

In 2005, the Committee revisited the early termination policy, recommending provisions modeled after United States Parole Commission regulations. Specifically, the Conference approved creating a presumption in favor of early termination for non-career and non-violent offenders who 1) have been under supervision for at least 18 months, present no identified risk to the public or victims, and are free from any moderate- or high-severity violations; or 2) have been under supervision for at least 42 months and are free from any moderate- or high-severity violations. These policies remain in effect today.

During 2008, 74.8% of the cases that were successfully closed were closed due to the expiration of the full, original term.  A smaller proportion, 17.9% of successful closures, were early terminations by the court, which may occur at any time after one year of supervision if the court determines such action is warranted by the defendant's conduct and serves the interests of justice.  On average, offenders whose supervised release terms were terminated early served more than 60% of the original supervision term imposed.  In fact, offenders who benefit from early termination of supervision generally serve terms well beyond the one-year minimum required. For instance, in 2006, offenders whose supervised release terms were terminated early were sentenced were sentenced to an average of 42 months supervision and served an average of 26 months before being terminated.

Good behavior is earning certain federal offenders early release from supervised release or probation. But qualifying for early termination is no easy matter.

The law permits courts to terminate probation in misdemeanor cases at any time, and to terminate supervision or probation in felony cases after one year. Until recently, however, no national policies or guidelines existed that might help probation officers assess the suitability of eligible offenders.

"Early terminations do occur sometimes and the practice varies significantly from district to district," said Chief Judge William Wilkins (4th Cir.), "but there was nothing in our national supervision policies to encourage officers to systematically assess the suitability of offenders for early termination of supervision."

With input from probation officers, the Judicial Conference Committee on Criminal Law, chaired by Wilkins from 1999 until 2003, created nine criteria to help probation officers properly identify offenders for consideration for early termination. The Judicial Conference endorsed the criteria at its March 2003 meeting as part of the revised post-conviction supervised release policies.

"The Committee believes that when the conditions of supervision imposed have been met, and the offender has successfully reintegrated into the community and does not pose a foreseeable risk to public safety in general or to any individual third party," said Wilkins, "the probation officer should request the court to consider early termination."

The criteria are:

It never hurts to apply but expect some opposition from prosecutors.  Some districts do not grant early termination but there are additional pressures on U.S. Probation from overcrowding, budgets and legislation that is resulting in more inmates being released from prison (i.e. changes to crack cocaine sentencing laws and Minus Two Amendment).

In April and July 2014, the U.S. Sentencing Commission changed the threshold amounts in the drug quantity tables to that many, but not all, drug quantities will have a base offense level that is two levels lower than before the amendment (thus the name Minus Two).  This results in lower sentences for some drug offenses and is retroactive.  We realize that there may be a number of questions about whether or not you may qualify, but you need to contact your attorney.  We also recommend you look at these Frequently asked questions about Minus Two.