Post-release supervision is a lot more common than it used to be. There were about 2,000 on post-release supervision back in 2011 before the Justice Reinvestment Act added PRS for lower-level (Class F–I) felons. Today there are over 12,500 people on post-release supervision, and PRS revocations account for more entries to prison than probation revocations. Nevertheless, some aspects of PRS still seem unfamiliar. Today’s post takes a quick look at a frequently asked question related to what happens when a person is returned to prison for a violation of PRS.
Defendants on post-release supervision are subject to conditions of supervision set by the Post-Release Supervision and Parole Commission in Raleigh. When a defendant is alleged to have violated a condition of supervision, he or she can be brought before the Commission for a violation hearing. (As a practical matter many defendants waive their right to a full hearing before the Commission.) Similar to the law governing probationers, the post-release supervision law allows the Commission to fully revoke only those supervisees who have committed a new criminal offense or absconded. The PRS law also allows the Commission to revoke for any violation committed by a person under supervision for a sex crime. G.S. 15A-1368.3(c)(1). For other violations, a supervisee can be returned to prison for only three months—a period of confinement similar to CRV for probationers—after which he or she is returned to supervision. Id.
When post-release supervisees are revoked, they are “returned to prison up to the time remaining on their maximum imposed terms.” Id. And that brings me to the main subject of this post. I am often asked how long that “time remaining” will be, and whether it will reflect any of the sentence credits (earned time and meritorious time) that the defendant accrued when he or she served the main portion of the prison term before being released onto PRS. It appears to be a somewhat common belief that a revoked supervisee will not retain the benefit of those credits, and that he or she will instead serve the full, original maximum sentence upon any revocation of PRS.
That is incorrect. A revocation of PRS does not forfeit or otherwise eliminate the sentence credits a person accrued in prison before being released onto PRS, and the Commission does not “reset” the maximum upon revocation. In the way North Carolina determines releases onto PRS (described in detail in the videos available here), a person will, upon initial release, have the following “time remaining” on his or her maximum sentence:
- Class F–I felons: 9 months
- Class F–I sex offenders: 9 months
- Class B1–E felons: 12 months
- Class B1–E sex offenders: 60 months
By law (G.S. 15A-1368.2(a)), defendants in each category are released that many months before their maximum imposed prison term, less any earned time. And so, by design, that is the time remaining on the maximum sentence should the person return to prison by way of PRS revocation. The prison system does not add the earned time reduction back in.
To give an example, suppose a person received a 20–33 month active sentence for a Class G felony. Let’s assume he was a model inmate and accrued enough earned time to work four months off his maximum sentence, reducing it from 33 to 29 months. That would lead to him being released from prison after 20 months (9 months before his maximum less earned time). If, during his 9-month term of post-release supervision, he absconded and got revoked, he would return to prison for only 9 months, not 13. The prison system would not reset the time remaining on the maximum to the original maximum sentence.
If anything, the defendant would probably serve less than 9 months. That’s because G.S. 15A-1368.3(c)(4) says that a “prisoner is eligible to receive earned time credit against the maximum prison term as provided in G.S. 15A-1340.13(d) for time served in prison after the revocation.” Remember, though, that the time the person spent on PRS in the community counts for no credit against the maximum sentence itself. G.S. 15A-1368.3(c)(2). So, if you get revoked in month eight of your 9-month PRS period, you still have 9 months of imprisonment to serve.