In the federal system, many defendants serve a term of supervised release after completing their prison sentence. Supervised parole replaced the parole system for federal crimes. While similar to parole, several important differences exist.
Supervised release provides a period of restricted freedom for recently released prisoners (often between one and five years). A federal judge will set the supervised release term (duration) and conditions at the time of sentencing. Although not mandatory for most crimes, judges impose supervised release in approximately 75% of cases.
During supervised release, the defendant must abide by the conditions of release and be supervised by a probation officer. A former prisoner who violates the conditions of supervised release may be sent back to prison, potentially to remain there until the end of the supervised release term. The judge retains jurisdiction over a defendant's supervised release and will make decisions regarding early termination (for good behavior) or modification or revocation (for violations).
Supervised release differs from parole in several respects.
And what about probation? Similar to supervised release, a judge (rather than a separate board) makes decisions regarding probation. But unlike supervised release, which occurs after completion of a prison sentence, probation is served in lieu of a person's prison sentence. It's a chance for the offender to serve their sentence in the community while supervised and potentially avoid prison. If the probationer violates their conditions, a judge can revoke probation and send the offender to prison to start their sentence.
(18 U.S.C. § 3583 (2021).)