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Chapter 3: Association and Contact Restrictions (Probation and Supervised Release Conditions)

A. Statutory Authority

Under 18 U.S.C. § 3563(b)(6), the court may provide that the defendant “refrain from . . . associating unnecessarily with specified persons.”

B. Sample Condition Language

You must not have direct contact with any child you know or reasonably should know to be under the age of 18, [including][not including] your own children, without the permission of the probation officer. If you do have any direct contact with any child you know or reasonably should know to be under the age of 18, [including][not including] your own children, without the permission of the probation officer, you must report this contact to the probation officer within 24 hours. Direct contact includes written communication, in-person communication, or physical contact. Direct contact does not include incidental contact during ordinary daily activities in public places.

You must not communicate, or otherwise interact, with any known member of the _______ gang, without first obtaining the permission of the probation officer.

You must not communicate, or otherwise interact, with [name of victim], either directly or through someone else, without first obtaining the permission of the probation officer.

C. Purpose

  1. This condition serves the statutory sentencing purposes of public protection and rehabilitation. 18 U.S.C. § 3553(a)(2)(C) and (D).
  2. This condition enables the probation officer to satisfy the statutory requirements to keep informed of the conduct and condition of the defendant, report the defendant’s conduct and condition to the sentencing court, and aid the defendant and bring about improvements in his or her conduct and condition 18 U.S.C. §§ 3603(2)-(3).
  3. This condition allows the probation officer to implement supervision methods demonstrated by social science to be effective at achieving positive outcomes.
    1. Research suggests that correctional interventions that follow the principles of evidence-based practices promote positive change in the defendant and reduce the probability of recidivism. One of the principles is that probation officers should address criminogenic needs, including antisocial associates (see: Chapter 1, Section III(A)(1)).
    2. Research suggests that exposure to antisocial associates increases the probability of recidivism. Antisocial associates provide opportunities to learn the techniques of crime and also antisocial attitudes (see: Chapter 1, Section III(A)(2)).
    3. Research suggests that the probability of recidivism is reduced when defendants develop and maintain prosocial bonds to prosocial individuals and institutions (see: Chapter 1, Section III(A)(3)).
    4. Research suggests that for a criminal opportunity to exist, two ingredients must converge in time and space. First, there must be a person motivated to commit a criminal act. Second, the person must have the opportunity to commit a crime. Probation officers may work with defendants on supervision, family members, neighbors, other community members, and law enforcement agencies to structure and monitor the defendant’s routine activities and reduce the extent to which defendants come into contact with criminal opportunities. Probation officers may also prevent criminal opportunities by monitoring defendants through contacts with the defendant and his or her social network, verifying employment, restricting travel, and providing positive reinforcement for prosocial routine activities. By seeking to prohibit contact with specific people, probation officers may try to disrupt activities that increase crime opportunities (see: Chapter 1, Section III(A)(4)).

D. Method of Implementation

  1. Special conditions may be fashioned to prohibit contact with particular individuals or groups associated with the risk factors in the individual case. The probation officer may recommend a condition limiting or prohibiting, or otherwise monitoring the contact with victims, minors, co-defendants, or other associates that may increase the probability that defendants will reoffend.
  2. Probation officers remain informed of the defendant’s activities by interviewing members of the defendant’s social network. The probation officer should develop a network of people in the community who have frequent contact with the defendant. Examples of important potential partners in the supervision process are family members, friends, neighbors, employers, coworkers, service providers, clergy, police officers assigned to the defendant’s neighborhood, and other local law enforcement and community corrections personnel. Probation officers may also consider involving the defendant’s attorney, whose interest in the defendant’s success coincides with the purpose of supervision and whose position as an advocate may help reinforce the defendant’s understanding of his or her legal obligations. Collaboration with on-the-scene supervision partners is essential for efficient verification of compliance with conditions and for early warning signs that may require the probation officer’s intervention.
  3. Probation officers also remain aware of the defendant’s activities through community observation, which is fieldwork that does not involve a direct contact with the defendant or the defendant’s social network. It may be the preferred way to unobtrusively monitor compliance with specific conditions in a way that does not intrude on the activity itself. For example, observation of a defendant’s work site or residence during the start or end time of his or her reported work schedule may be appropriate in some cases. Although occasional observations of this nature may be productive, prolonged fieldwork such as this is generally not appropriate under Judicial Conference policy.
  4. The strategies for monitoring a defendant’s associations with others also include inquiring into the identities of unknown persons present during visits by the probation officer to the defendant’s home or elsewhere in the community, noting the license plate numbers of unknown vehicles seen during visits to the defendant’s home for verification of ownership, randomly checking telephone toll records, and/or investigating the identity and criminal history of prospective employers or employees.
  5. Compliance with this condition may also be monitored through location monitoring technology (see: Chapter 3, Section XII).
  6. If there is an identified victim, the probation officer may recommend that the defendant be prohibited from having any contact with the victim without prior approval of the probation officer. This may include contact through letters, communication devices, audio or visual devices, visits, social networking sites, or third parties. The probation officer may contact the victim(s), the victim’s family, or a designated representative to ensure that the defendant is complying with conditions of supervision prohibiting contact with the victim.
  7. The physical and psychological harm caused by sex offenses is particularly traumatic, and probation officers should give priority to minimizing the impact on victims and to preventing new sex crimes from occurring. Not all persons with a history of committing sex offenses are alike. Rather, they present a spectrum of criminogenic risk and therapeutic need. Supervision techniques should vary accordingly.