Aug 22 2023

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Senator Thom Tillis recently joined Senators Chris Coons (D-DE), John Cornyn (R-TX), Dick Durbin (D-IL), Mike Lee (R-UT), Cory Booker (D-NJ), Roger Wicker (R-MS), Kevin Cramer (R-N.D), and James Lankford (R-OK) to introduce the bipartisan, bicameral Safer Supervision Act, a bill that would better ensure that the federal supervised release system is directing its resources to most effectively reduce recidivism and promote public safety, rehabilitation, and reintegration.

Federal supervised release is a form of supervision after incarceration that was originally designed to be used “for those, and only those, who [need] it,” according to the U.S. Supreme Court. Currently, however, supervised release is imposed in nearly every case, resulting in an overburdened system with more than 110,000 people in supervision at any moment, and nearly 50,000 people cycling into it each year. The result is a system that does not provide appropriate supervision to the high-risk individuals who most need it while creating counterproductive burdens on low-risk individuals that inhibit their ability to reintegrate. 

The Safer Supervision Act would restore supervised release to the system that Congress originally intended. It would do so by ensuring that courts impose supervision based on the individual facts of the case and promoting positive incentives through improvements to the existing early termination process. Notably, it requires key public safety findings before any individual can be subject to the early termination provisions, and it expressly incorporates victim’s rights in those proceedings. 

“The widespread usage of supervised release has resulted in probation officers becoming overwhelmed and unable to provide proper oversight to those who need it most,” said Senator Tillis. “This legislation will ensure resources are used where they are needed most and provide better outcomes to protect public safety and reduce recidivism.” 

Specifically, the Safer Supervision Act

  • Imposes supervision based on individual facts. The bill would require courts to conduct an individualized assessment of the appropriateness of supervision and to state its reasons on the record. 
  • Creates positive incentives that will encourage rehabilitation and good conduct. This bill would create a rebuttable presumption in favor of early termination when the individual establishes that they have served 50 percent of their term (or two-thirds for violent offenses), have shown good conduct and compliance, and when they have shown that termination would not jeopardize public safety. This presumption would further ensure that limited supervision resources are being directed to the cases that warrant it, while also creating strong positive incentives for individuals to take the steps needed to rehabilitate and reintegrate. 
  • Provides courts with discretion to determine how to assess minor controlled substance possession violations. Although supervision can always be revoked for any violation of supervision conditions, revocation and reimprisonment are mandatory in certain circumstances, including for any possession of any controlled substance. The bill would create a narrow carveout so that courts have the discretion to decide whether reimprisonment or treatment and rehabilitation is the best approach for minor misdemeanor possession offenses that do not involve intent to distribute.

The legislation is endorsed by CPAC, Federal Law Enforcement Officers Association, MCCA, National District Attorneys Association, Right on Crime, Americans for Prosperity, Futures Without Violence, Faith and Freedom, Prison Fellowship, R Street Institute, REFORM Alliance, and others.

Full text of the legislation is available here.

A one-pager on the bill is available here.