What are the main types of supervision in California?

There are 4 main categories of supervision in California. They are:

STATE PAROLE: In California, parole is a condition of release for many people coming out of prison.[300] It only applies in felony cases when a person is sentenced to state prison. It also only takes effect after release from prison.

    People sentenced to serve determinate sentences — such as an exact term of “seven years” — serve the specified amount of time in prison ordered by the judge. Once their sentence is over, they are released.
    People sentenced to serve indeterminate terms, such as “25 to life with the possibility of parole,” are released only after a Board of Parole Hearings (BPH) determines that they are ready to re-enter society.[301]
    Most people released from California state prison are required to serve a period of parole after they are released. People on parole — called “parolees” — remain under the control of the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation’s (CDCR) Division of Adult Parole Operations (DAPO). People on parole are supervised by parole agents, and must follow certain requirements or “conditions” of parole.[302]

COUNTY PROBATION & NEW FORMS OF COUNTY-LEVEL SUPERVISION: Probation is a type of supervision that a judge orders at trial as part of the original sentence, either as an alternative to incarceration OR in addition to incarceration.[303] California probation reduces or eliminates the time that a person must spend in custody in jail or prison.[304] People on probation must report to their county probation office (for more about formal probation, go to PG. 200) or to local superior court (for more about informal probation, go to PG. 196), and must meet certain requirements or “conditions” of probation. Depending on the circumstances, either the court or a probation officer monitors the person’s compliance with his or her probation terms. Informal probation, formal probation, mandatory supervision, and post-release community supervision (PRCS) are all types of community supervision that fall under the responsibility of California’s county probation departments. Unlike state parole offices, which are all operated by CDCR and DAPO, county probation departments have a lot more independence and differences between them. Here is a quick overview of the different types of county probation:

    INFORMAL PROBATION: Informal probation is a type of supervision for some misdemeanor convictions in which you are supervised by the court, not by a probation officer.It is also called “court,” “summary,” and “misdemeanor” probation.[305]
    FORMAL PROBATION: Formal probation is a type of supervision for felony and some misdemeanor convictions in which you are supervised by a probation officer [306]
    POST-RELEASE COMMUNITY SUPERVISION (PRCS): If you are released from state prison after incarceration for a non-violent, non-serious, non-sexual crime, you are placed under supervision by county probation officers, instead of being placed on state parole.[307] This is called post-release community supervision (PRCS). PRCS can last up to 3 years, but it can end earlier if you do not violate any conditions of your PRCS.[308]
    MANDATORY SUPERVISION: In California, through a process called “split sentencing,” a judge can split the time of a sentence between a jail term and a period of supervision by a county probation officer. This type of supervision is called mandatory supervision.

FEDERAL PROBATION: People convicted of certain federal offenses may be sentenced to federal probation or supervised release. The U.S. Probation and Pretrial Services System oversees federal probation.[309]

    FEDERAL PROBATION: After you are convicted of a federal crime, federal probation is used as an alternative sentence to prison time.[310] This means federal probation is a type of sentence in itself. If you are on federal probation, you must report to your assigned probation office and comply with the conditions of your federal probation.[311]
    SUPERVISED RELEASE: Supervised release is overseen by federal district courts with the help of federal probation officers.[312] The judge can sentence you to a term of supervised release after your release from federal prison.[313] In other words, a term of supervised release does not replace any part of your prison term; rather, a judge orders supervised release in addition to any prison term you may serve.[314] In some cases, the judge who sentences you is actually required by law to impose a term of supervised release in addition to a prison term.[315] It’s common for a federal sentence to include a prison term, followed by a period of supervised release.

FEDERAL PAROLE: Although federal parole was officially eliminated in 1984, certain categories of people may still be on federal parole. These categories include: (1) people who were sentenced in federal court before November 1, 1987; (2) people who violate criminal laws in Washington, DC (the nation’s capital); (3) people convicted of crimes within the U.S. military’s criminal justice system; and (4) people convicted in certain foreign transfer treaty cases. People who are on federal parole are supervised by federal probation officers.[316]

  1. 300

    See 15 Cal. Code Regs. § 2355.

  2. 301

    Lifer Parole Process, Cal. Dep’t of Corr. & Rehab., http://www.cdcr.ca.gov/BOPH/lifer_parole_process.html.

  3. 302

    Lifer Parole Process, Cal. Dep’t of Corr. & Rehab., http://www.cdcr.ca.gov/BOPH/lifer_parole_process.html.

  4. 303

    See Cal. Penal Code § 1203.

  5. 304

    See Cal. Penal Code § 1203.

  6. 305

    Cal. Penal Code § 1203(d).

  7. 306

    See Cal. Penal Code § 1203(b–d).

  8. 307

    Cal. Penal Code § 3450; 15 Cal. Code Regs. §§ 3079-79.1.

  9. 308

    See Cal. Penal Code § 3451 (a) ("[A]ll persons . . . shall, upon release from prison and for a period not exceeding three years immediately following release, be subject to community supervision provided by a county agency.").

  10. 309

    18 U.S.C. § 3153. See also Probation Pretrial Services, US Courts, http://www.U.S.C.ourts.gov/FederalCourts/ProbationPretrialServices.aspx.

  11. 310

    A defendant may receive a sentence of probation unless he or she is convicted of a Class A or B felony; probation is prohibited by statute of conviction; or the defendant is sentenced at the same time to imprisonment. 18 U.S.C. § 3561(a). A court’s authority to impose probation is based solely on statute. See Affronti v. U.S., 350 U.S. 79, 83 (1955). The authorized length of probation is between one and five years for a felony; not more than five years for a misdemeanor; and not more than one year for an infraction. 18 U.S.C. § 3561(c).

  12. 311

    18 U.S.C. § 3563(b)(15). Ever since 1984 (the time when the “Sentencing Reform Act” went into effect), federal criminal courts have recognized federal probation as a sentence in itself. 18 U.S.C. § 3561; http://www.ussc.gov/sites/default/files/pdf/guidelines-manual/2012/manual-pdf/Chapter_7.pdf p. 477. Although it is statutorily permissible to receive a sentence of unsupervised or “summary” probation in federal court, it is not the norm – even in misdemeanor cases.

  13. 312

    United States Sentencing Commission, Federal Offenders Sentenced to Supervised Release, July 2010 10, p. 1. http://www.ussc.gov/sites/default/files/pdf/training/annual-national-training-seminar/2012/2_Federal_Offenders_Sentenced_to_Supervised_Release.pdf.

  14. 313

    18 U.S.C. § 3583.

  15. 314

    http://www.ussc.gov/sites/default/files/pdf/guidelines-manual/2012/manual-pdf/Chapter_7.pdf p. 477

  16. 315

    See, e.g., 21 U.S.C. § 841(b)(1)(A) (mandating a lifetime term of supervised release for those convicted of certain drug offenses).

  17. 316

    Parole in the Federal Probation System, US Courts, http://www.U.S.C.ourts.gov/News/TheThirdBranch/11-05-01/Parole_in_the_Federal_Probation_System.aspx.