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Supervision occurs after offenders have pled guilty or been tried and found guilty and after they've been released from incarceration.

The court will sentence a 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 and obey laws.

What Supervision Is

Supervision in the federal system 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.
  • 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 Supervised Release

At the start of an offender’s supervision, a probation officer will fully explain to an offender the conditions of his or her release. These conditions include the mandatory conditions of release which the court imposes on all offenders, and may include discretionary conditions which the court imposes to provide probation officers with the authority to address risk related issues specific to a particular offender. Discretionary conditions may include, among other things, home detention, substance abuse testing or treatment, mental health treatment, and the disclosure of financial information.

What it Accomplishes

Supervision addresses several key criminal justice goals. Through supervision, officers:

  • Enforce the court's order. Officers make sure people on supervision comply with the conditions the court has set for their release to the community.
  • Protect the community. Officers reduce the risk that people on supervision commit crimes. They also reduce the risk that people who are awaiting trial flee rather than return to court as required.
  • Provide treatment and assistance. Officers help people on supervision correct problems that may be linked to their criminal behavior by directing them to services to help them. These services may include substance abuse or mental health treatment, medical care, training, or employment assistance.

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. From the start and throughout supervision, the officer will assess and reassess the potential risk that an offender poses to 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.

How Officers Supervise

In working with people on supervision, officers

  • inform them of what the court expects of them.
  • meet with them at home and at work.
  • monitor their compliance with the conditions the court has set for their release.
  • step in to control and correct if they don't comply.

This page contains excerpts from the Supervision Section on U.S. Courts Web Site.  You may follow the link below for more detailed information