Critics of harsh drug sentencing laws in the United States typically focus on long prison sentences. But the American criminal justice system also inflicts a significant volume of drug-related punishment through community supervision (probation, parole, and supervised release). Over one million people are under supervision due to a drug conviction, and drug activity is among the most common reasons for violations. In an age of “mass supervision,” community supervision is a major form of drug sentencing and drug policy.
In this Article, I analyze the federal system of supervised release as a form of drug policy. Congress created supervised release as a program of transitional support for former prisoners, yet the system has instead evolved into a drug-control network focused on monitoring, restricting, and punishing drug activity. In particular, the mandatory revocation provision in 18 U.S.C. § 3583(g) was designed to protect the public by imprisoning people with drug addiction at the first sign of drug use. This targeting of drug activity is so punitive that it violates the jury right under the Supreme Court’s 2019 decision in United States v. Haymond.
Jacob Schuman, Drug Supervision, 19 Ohio St. J. Crim. L. 1 (2022).