Lankford Introduces Bill to Improve Federal Supervised Release

OKLAHOMA CITY, OK – Senator James Lankford (R-OK) joined Senators Chris Coons (D-DE, John Cornyn (R-TX), Dick Durbin (D-IL), Mike Lee (R-UT), Cory Booker (D-NJ), Thom Tillis (R-NC), Roger Wicker (R-MS), and Kevin Cramer (R-ND) to introduce the 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 US 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. Companion legislation is being led in the US House of Representatives by Congressman Wesley Hunt (R-Texas) and Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee (D-Texas). 

“Oklahomans want a fair justice system that addresses violent crime and focuses on rehabilitation so individuals who are not a threat to public safety can get back to their families, jobs, and communities,” said Lankford. “I’m glad to partner with Senator Coons and our colleagues to make these commonsense adjustments to our nation’s federal supervised release program. Supervised release is an important tool but should be tailored to the individual. We should continue to incentivize good behavior and give people second chances when they earn them.”

“Our overstretched federal supervision system has departed far from the original intent of Congress,” said Coons. “After people have served their time, our system should work to lift them up, not to drag them down. The Safer Supervision Act would improve public safety by ensuring that we properly supervise those who would most benefit from it, while creating positive incentives for all those under supervision to rehabilitate and reintegrate.”

“Texas has led the nation with successful prison reforms that reduce recidivism rates and save taxpayer dollars, and we need to empower law enforcement officers and local officials to make decisions that accomplish meaningful change,” said Cornyn. “This legislation would encourage rehabilitation and reward good conduct by giving judges flexibility to terminate a term of supervised release early for those who do not need to be monitored.”

“I am proud to co-lead the Safer Supervision Act. This bipartisan effort has the broad support of many law enforcement organizations,” said Hunt. “This pro-rehabilitation legislation better allocates resources for reintegration into society, it helps to remove the permanent scarlet letter of incarceration, and it creates positive incentives that encourage true rehabilitation. The Safer Supervision Act is a win for law enforcement, the judicial system, and those who have served their time and reformed. I am proud to join my colleagues on both sides of the aisle who support this necessary step to reduce recidivism and promote rehabilitation.”

“In a time when we are still looking for ways to rectify decades of federal mandatory minimums that resulted in excessively punitive and disproportionate prison sentences, I am pleased to join my fellow sponsors of the Safer Supervision Act in making critical and necessary steps forward in reshaping and reforming our criminal justice system to work in a more fair and just manner. By expanding and shifting strategies to advance public safety, the Safer Supervision Act helps reinforce the importance of commonsense discretion and individualized assessments for those transitioning out of the criminal justice system with an eye towards what works best for their successful rehabilitation,” said Jackson Lee.

“Supervised release is an important tool to help ensure an incarcerated person’s successful reentry into society. This bill strengthens that tool by clarifying supervised release requirements, incentivizing good behavior, and empowering judges who know the cases best to conduct individualized risk assessments. I encourage my colleagues to support this commonsense, bipartisan reform bill and uphold the key values of our criminal justice system: rehabilitation and reintegration,” said Durbin.

“Supervised release is an important tool that, when utilized correctly, can encourage rehabilitation of criminal defendants. This bill will enhance the effectiveness of that tool by lessening the burden placed on federal probation officers and encouraging judges to exercise more discretion when deciding to impose a period of supervised release,” said Lee.

“Oftentimes, individual probation officers are tasked with overseeing dozens of supervised releases, straining judicial resources and taxpayer dollars,” said Booker. “Further, excessive supervision can increase recidivism rates as the demands can hinder people’s ability to successfully reintegrate into their communities. This legislation will improve our criminal justice system and ensure successful reentry for those who have already served their time by encouraging our judicial system to take a more individualized approach to supervised releases and promoting early termination when safe and appropriate.”

“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 Tillis. “This legislation will ensure resources are used where they are needed most and provide better outcomes to protect public safety and reduce recidivism.”

“Supervised release should be based on individual facts to help those who need it most integrate back into society. Our bill ensures supervision is imposed on those who are at higher risk of recidivism and ensures our supervision system is not overburdened,” said Cramer.