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How often your federal probation officer visits is an important question for all persons under the supervision of the United States Probation Office (USPO). This small piece of information is very helpful when considering a request for early release from federal probation (or federal supervised release). ((There is little difference between federal supervised release and federal probation. In short, if a federal defendant is sentenced to prison, they will enter a term of supervised release upon completion of that sentence. Conversely, if the defendant was sentenced to no prison time, they will be considered on probation. The supervising officers are the same for both and there is almost no difference, legally, between the two.))

Levels of Supervision

Each federal district has a its own U.S. Probation Office. That office has a large amount of discretion over local policy. For this reason, the treatment of probationers and supervisees can vary a lot.

However probation offices are part of the Judicial branch of government, not the Executive (like the Department of Justice). This means that the judges in their district are technically their boss. The Judicial policy manual for probation offices generally guides the crafting of that local policy. This means that, because of that policy manual, much of how those under federal supervision are treated remains similar all around the nation.

When a federal inmate is released from custody, that inmate typically spends a few months in a halfway house. While in pre-release halfway house custody, they still “belong” to the Bureau of Prisons (BOP). The BOP runs federal prisons, and is a part of the Executive branch (just like the FBI, and other three-letter agencies.

Once an inmate’s  halfway house stay is finished, they are released into the supervisory custody of the USPO. This begins a term of supervised release. The length of this term of post-release “probation” is dictated at the original sentencing and is typically between two and five years.

At the beginning of supervision, the intensity of supervision s the highest it will ever be for the supervisee. This includes in-person, residential visits from the PO to approve housing, and a visit or two to the supervisee’s job site to verify employment.

Switching Probation Officers

Monthly in-person visits from a PO are common in the first few months of supervision. After a year or so (oftentimes even sooner), those visits become less frequent. This shift signifies a change in “Supervision Intensity” or some such phrase as used by the local USPO.

This shift is almost always accompanied by a change in probation officers. In fact, through the first two years of supervised release, probation officers can change five time or even more.

Sometimes, this change is due to a probation officer moving to a new district or being promoted. Usually, though, this signifies that the “level” of supervision intensity has decreased. Lower security levels in prison are much like lower intensity levels on supervised release: they signify that the individual is considered less of a risk for crime, violence, etc.

The lowest level of supervision is called many different names. Some districts call it “administrative supervision,” while other’s call it “low-level supervision.” A supervisee will rarely hear of the internal policy or paperwork involved in the decreasing levels of supervision, but the intensity by which the supervision occurs can be easily observed.

The name isn’t important. Noticing this change, though, IS important!

Why You Should Care

There are many reasons former inmates want to get off of federal supervision as soon as possible. Those will are covered in this post. Important here, however, is how often you see your probation officer. This information can mean a large difference in terminating federal supervised release early.


This descending intensity of supervision is an indicator that the USPO is less interested in a supervisee. Less interest means they believe that there is less of a threat to society posed by the supervisee. That means the USPO is much less likely to stand in the way of a bid to get off of supervision early. If the USPO isn’t standing in the way, the judge is much more likely to grant the request.

This is a great thing! Paying attention to the amount of attention you are getting from your federal probation officer makes you better informed for your request for early termination. Early termination is freedom, and freedom is priceless!

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