Supervised Release after a term in the Federal Bureau of Prisons
I’m expanding my knowledge about living under conditions known as Supervised Release. People who serve lengthy terms in federal prison frequently transition to supervised release when they conclude their obligation in the Federal Bureau of Prisons. I began serving a sentence in federal prison on August 11, 1987 and I did not conclude my term until August 12, 2013. The following day, I met with Christine, my federal probation officer. Those who want to learn more about Supervised Release may benefit from reading about my experiences.
I have found Christine to be kind and supportive of my work. She understands that I want to build a career around all that I learned as a long-term prisoner. While serving more than 26 years inside prisons of every security level I educated myself, contributed to society, earned an income, found the love of my life, and I built a thriving support network. The experiences validated me as knowing how to triumph over adversity and I wrote numerous books that would help others understand how to make the most of their own struggle.
But returning to society and beginning the term on Supervised Release was an entirely new experience. I had some indirect exposure to Supervised Release because of the books that I’ve written about serving time in federal prison. In preparation for writing those books, I interviewed hundreds of men who returned to federal prison after they had been released from their initial federal prison sentence. None of those men ever dreamed that authorities would charge them with violating conditions of their Supervised Release, then remand the men back to federal prison. Since I was determined to build my life as a law-abiding, contributing citizen, I wanted to learn everything I could about Supervised Release after a term in the Federal Bureau of Prisons. My probation could help me understand.
How I prepared in anticipation of Supervised Release:
I expected to face some resistance because of the career that I intended to build. Supervised Release could complicate matters. Since the time authorities transported me from the county jail to a federal penitentiary, I set myself on a course to prepare for a law-abiding, contributing life. By the time I concluded my term, I recognized a need in society to bring more awareness to America’s criminal justice system. Books I wrote and time I served validated my authority on the subject, and the Criminal Justice department at San Francisco State University validated my credibility further when the university offered me a position to lecture. I am enthusiastic to begin teaching a course called The Architecture of Imprisonment during the fall semester of 2013. I am teaching my first class less than three full weeks after concluding my obligation to the Bureau of Prisons. (Link to syllabus I wrote for my course at San Francisco State University: The Architecture of Imprisonment)
Despite all of the preparations I made while serving my sentence, I still had some concerns about how the probation officer presiding over my life on Supervised Release would respond to the career that I wanted to build. After all, my career had many components, including the following:
- Teaching university classes would be one component and I did not expect any resistance on that front.
- Designing and producing programs that would help more offenders prepare for a successful journey through prison. More importantly, those programs would help offenders return to society strong, with values, skills, and resources that translated into success. Since my clients for that product would be law-enforcement agencies, I did not expect to encounter too much resistance with that spoke. On the other hand, bringing my reentry programs to market would require me to travel frequently, and I worked whether my probation officer would authorize me to travel while on Supervised Release.
- I also intended to earn a living as a public speaker. Again, those efforts would require me to travel. I didn’t know how my status of living on Supervised Release would interfere with those aspirations.
- Consulting with offenders who anticipated serving time in federal prison represented another area where I wanted to earn a living. I did not know how many probation officers would respond to that plan. Since it was my understanding that there were rules prohibiting felons from communicating, I had some reservations on whether I would be able to launch this phase of my business before I concluded my entire obligation to the criminal justice system.
I had prepared myself well through prison by documenting my journey inside. The deliberate strategy I followed through my imprisonment allowed me to make a strong case for special consideration from my probation officer when I transitioned from custody in the Federal Bureau of Prisons to time on Supervised Release. I looked forward to listening to Christine and learning how my life would change as I returned to society.
Supervised Release Conditions:
In my case, I only have standard conditions of release. I’ll paraphrase them below:
- I had to report to my parole officer within 72 hours of the time I concluded my term in federal prison, on August 12, 2013.
- I cannot leave the limits of my judicial district without written permission from my probation officer.
- I must notify my probation officer within two days if I change my address.
- I must file a report to my probation officer each month by the third of each new month.
- I cannot violate any law.
- I cannot associate with people engaged in crime.
- I must get in touch with my probation officer within two days if I’m arrested or questioned by law enforcement.
- I cannot serve as an informant to law enforcement.
- I must work to the satisfaction of my probation officer.
- I cannot drink alcoholic beverages to excess. I cannot use illegal drugs or frequent places where others use drugs.
- I cannot associate with people who have a criminal record unless I have permission from my probation officer.
- I cannot possess a firearm or ammunition.
- I must permit my probation officer to confiscate any contraband that she finds around me.
- I must make a diligent effort to satisfy any fines or restitution orders.
- I must submit to a drug test when my probation officer asks.
The only conditions that concerned me were those that could potentially interfere with the career I wanted to build. Specifically, I wondered whether my probation officer would authorize me to travel for business reasons, and I wondered whether my probation officer would authorize me to communicate with people who had been charged with criminal behavior in the past.
Supervised Release in my case:
Christine has relieved my anxieties. In fact, I concluded my obligation to the Federal Bureau of Prisons on August 12, 2013. I then requested Christine to authorize me to travel to the Los Angeles area so that I could meet with prospective clients. Without hesitation, she authorized my travel despite my only beginning on Supervised Release. On Tuesday, August 20, 2013, I boarded a flight to Los Angeles. My Daily Log entries detail my activities through Friday, August 23, 2013, when I boarded a flight back to San Francisco. Not only did Christine authorize me to travel, so long as I provided her with full disclosure, she authorized me to build my business even though it would frequently require me to interact with other people who’ve faced challenges with the criminal justice system.
As I write this article, I’ve been on Supervised Release for less than one month. But my initial impression is that so long as I comply with all of my probation officer’s concerns, I will not have any problem. I look forward to learning more and sharing what I learn through publishing these articles. Those who retain me will receive more specialized services that draw upon all that I learned during the 26 years I served as a federal prisoner. I will strive to help them make the most of the experience, just as I have done.