Replacement for parole and probation in the US federal prison system that went into effect around 1992 as part of the Federal Sentencing Guidelines. It's a bit of doublespeak -- tough on crime legislators wanted to be able to say they had eliminated parole and probation in the federal prison system, and instituted supervised release instead.

Nearly all federal prison terms include 12 to 60 (or more) months of supervised release. At the time of sentencing, terms of supervised release are presented by the judge, including conditions such as reporting to a federal parole officer, prohibition from associating with any felons, etc. In the case of Kevin Mitnick, supervised release includes prohibitions against using computers.

The major differences between supervised release and parole is that supervised release is easier to revoke, and its term resets after violations -- say you have a 36 month term of supervised release, and fail a drug test after 30 months of it. You could get something like a 6 month prison term for violating, and then the 36 month term of supervised release would start again.

Interestingly, when the law was first introduced, legislators miswrote it in a way that violators were freed from their supervised release after serving time for a violation. It took close to a year for Congress to catch and correct the mistake, so there's a small segment of the federal prison population (some yet to be released) who deliberately violate their parole and serve short prison terms for violation, then walk out the gates as free men.

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