Is Federal Supervised Release Unconstitutional?

A federal judge and several other law experts argued in a recent law review journal that the way federal supervised release works is unconstitutional. The big problem, they point out, is that someone can be thrown back in prison for years without ever being charged with a crime or given the protections normally given for locking someone up, even without any evidence.

Judge Stefan Underhill, chief judge of the U.S. District Court for the District of Connecticut, with co-author Grace E. Powell, headed up the article in the Virginia Law Review’s online journal. They provided a good case on why the current process for handling federal supervised release violations may be unconstitutional.

I think this passage from the article provides a good gist of what these experts are trying to say:

Those who drafted the Fifth and Sixth Amendments did so with the goal of making it difficult for the government to arbitrarily imprison a person. The current supervised release system offers prosecutors and courts what amounts to an end run around those carefully crafted protections, an expedient route to imprisonment that avoids the inconveniences of obtaining an indictment, affording the right to jury trial, and proving guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. In our view, it is that very expediency that violates the Constitution, harming not only those whose constitutional rights are denied, but also eroding – prosecution by prosecution – the constitutional structure put in place by the framers to protect ordinary citizens from the misuse of government power.

Read the full article here:

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