U.S. Senator Christopher Coons of Delaware

WASHINGTON–U.S. Senators Chris Coons (D-Del.), John Cornyn (R-Texas), Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), Mike Lee (R-Utah), Cory Booker (D-N.J.), Thom Tillis (R-N.C.), Roger Wicker (R-Miss.), Kevin Cramer (R-N.D), and James Lankford (R-Okla.) introduced 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. Companion legislation is being led in the U.S. House of Representatives by Congressman Wesley Hunt (R-Texas) and Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee (D-Texas). 

“Our overstretched federal supervision system has departed far from the original intent of Congress,”said Senator 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 SenatorCornyn.“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 Congressman 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 Congresswoman 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 Senator 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 Senator Lee.

“Oftentimes, individual probation officers are tasked with overseeing dozens of supervised releases, straining judicial resources and taxpayer dollars,” said Senator 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 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.”

“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 Senator Cramer. 

“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 Senator 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.”

“Federal Probation and Pretrial Services Officers are integral to reducing recidivism and ensuring the safe reentry of incarcerated persons. Unfortunately, as caseloads continue to rise, these officers have failed to receive the critical support, resources, and employment benefits necessary to ensure they can manage the current system of supervised release in a manner consistent with the needs of public safety. The Safer Supervision Act is a commonsense approach to improving working conditions for Probation and Pretrial Services Officers. It rectifies the longstanding inequity that leaves Probation and Pretrial Services Officers ineligible for Law Enforcement Availability Pay and will enable officers to better protect victims’ rights, encourage rehabilitation, and support successful and safe reentry into communities. We applaud Senator Coons, Senator Cornyn, Representative Hunt, and Representative Jackson Lee for leading this effort,”saidLarry Cosme, President of the Federal Law Enforcement Officers Association.

“Federal supervisory release officers are overwhelmed. They are managing triple the case loads of their state counterparts, largely because the federal system puts too many people on supervision for too long. This is especially true of cases involving nonviolent charges and when the evidence shows certain former offenders, by all measures, pose no threat to community safety. By incentivizing positive behavior and providing a path for early termination of supervision for those who have proven themselves worthy, Congress can help probation officers focus on those who need intensive supervision. The legislation would also confer law enforcement status and benefits on those who put their lives on the line every day to oversee people released from federal prison. Giving probation officers these tools is not soft on crime. Rather, doing so will make our neighborhoods safer. As such, CPAC strongly supports the Safer Supervision Act,”said David Safavian, Executive Vice President and General Counsel of the Conservative Political Action Coalition (CPAC).

“The Safer Supervision Act strikes a meaningful balance in our justice system by emphasizing individualized assessments at the sentencing stage, leading to a more tailored and just application of supervised release. Additionally, the increased support for federal probation officers enables them to manage their caseloads more effectively and focus on the high-risk individuals who need close supervision. The Safer Supervision Act represents a thoughtful and beneficial evolution of our criminal justice system, balancing fairness, rehabilitation, and our unwavering commitment to public safety,”said Nelson Bunn, Executive Director of the National District Attorneys Association.

“The Safer Supervision Act allows for better supervision of those who are the most violent offenders while offering a path for those who have proven they are abiding by their terms of supervision and can move on to a more productive and law-abiding life,”said Brett Tolman, former U.S. Attorney and Executive Director of Right On Crime.“This legislation is an evidence-based, bipartisan approach that prevents crime and promotes successful reintegration into our society.”

“The MCCA is proud to endorse theSafer Supervision Act of 2023.This legislation strikes the proper balance between reform and public safety. The changes this bill makes to the supervised release system will provide relief to non-violent offenders while ensuring that repeat and violent offenders are held accountable. The MCCA thanks Senator Coons, Senator Cornyn, Representative Hunt, Representative Jackson Lee, and the other cosponsors for their leadership on this issue,”said Eddie Garcia, Chief, Dallas Police Department, and President, Major Cities Chiefs Association (MCCA).

“Supervised release is a vital tool in our federal criminal justice system. We know from the experience of many states that supervision can more effectively ensure public safety in many cases when compared to longer prison sentences while also saving taxpayer money,”said Jeremiah Mosteller, Policy Director at Americans for Prosperity.“The Safer Supervision Act incorporates what has worked in many states across the country by allowing judges to impose individualized supervision terms and tailored conditions while also ensuring positive behavior and success is rewarded. Americans for Prosperity is honored to be partnering with policy champions in Congress who want to learn from the success and failure of dozens of states to improve federal supervised release.”

“The Safer Supervision Act will ensure our justice system continues to hold people accountable while shifting focus to rehabilitation, community success, and breaking cycles of crime,”saidJessica Jackson, Chief Advocacy and Operations Officer at REFORM Alliance.“The evidence-based policies in this legislation build upon supervision reform laws successfully implemented in red and blue states alike that make the system work better for everyone – people on supervision, supervision officers, crime survivors, our workforce, and the entire country. REFORM Alliance is proud to be a member of the Safer Supervision Coalition endorsing this bill and we applaud the authors for taking this important step toward making communities safer, saving taxpayer dollars and improving outcomes for people on supervised release.”

“Faith & Freedom Coalition strongly supports the Safer Supervision Act to modernize federal probation because it will promote public safety by reducing current caseloads and it incentivizes the pro-social behaviors we want to see in reentering offenders while maintaining the distinction between non-violent crimes and violent crimes. Removing people from supervision who have demonstrated they are committed to compliance with their reentry plan would free up resources to concentrate on those offenders more at risk of reoffending. Crime must be punished, but punishment should not last forever – and the ultimate goal of the criminal justice system is redemption, rehabilitation and successful reentry into society. Senators Coons and Cornyn’s Safer Supervision Act meets both of those requirements,”said Timothy R. Head, Executive Director of the Faith & Freedom Coalition.

“Futures Without Violence supports speedy passage of the bipartisan Safer Supervision Act,”said Esta Soler, President of Futures Without Violence.“We know that a majority of women and many men who are incarcerated have histories of physical or sexual abuse and often became involved in the criminal justice system as a result of their victimization. This bill will help make the criminal justice system more fair for them and all people.”

“As the nation’s largest Christian nonprofit serving prisoners, former prisoners, and their families, Prison Fellowship sees firsthand how community supervision can equip returning citizens to successfully leave crime behind and live out their God-given potential,” said Heather Rice-Minus, Executive Vice President of Strategic Initiatives at Prison Fellowship. “But when supervised release is imposed unnecessarily or for an excessive period, individuals can struggle to fully reintegrate into their communities. I commend the bipartisan sponsors of the Safer Supervision Act for working to promote safety, stability, and success after prison by modernizing federal community corrections practices.”

The Safer Supervision Act:

  • Imposessupervision based on the 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. 
  • Createspositive 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 haveserved 50 percent of their term (or two-thirds for violent offenses), haveshown good conduct and compliance, and whenthey have shown thattermination 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 incentivesforindividuals to take the steps needed to rehabilitate and reintegrate.
  • Providescourts 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 is 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 treatmentandrehabilitation 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, Texas Public Policy Foundation, REFORM Alliance, and others.

The full text of the bill is available here. A one-pager on the bill is available here.

Senator Coons is a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee and Co-Chair of the Senate Law Enforcement Caucus.


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