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Chapter 2: Communicating/Interacting with Persons Engaged in Criminal Activity and Felons (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. Standard Condition Language

You must not communicate or interact with someone you know is engaged in criminal activity.  If you know someone has been convicted of a felony, you must not knowingly communicate or interact with that person without first getting 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. The purpose of this condition is to prevent antisocial relationships and to encourage prosocial relationships. It provides defendants with a justification to avoid associating with persons convicted of felonies and may deter future criminal conduct that may be jointly undertaken with those persons.   
  4. 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 the learning of antisocial attitudes (see: Chapter 1, Section III(A)(2)).
    3. Research suggests that the probability of recidivism is reduced when defendants develop and maintain bonds to prosocial individuals and institutions (see Chapter 1, Section III(A)(3)).
    4. Research suggests that for a criminal event to occur there must be an 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 monitor defendants through contacts with the defendant and his or her social network, verifying employment, restricting travel, and providing positive reinforcement for prosocial routine activities. If the defendant communicates or interacts with a person whom he or she knows to be engaged, or planning to be engaged, in criminal activity, the defendant is exposed to opportunities to commit crimes (see: Chapter 1, Section III(A)(4)).

D. Method of Implementation

The strategies for monitoring a defendant’s associations with others 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. Probation officers also encourage defendants to be engaged in prosocial activities (e.g., employment, education) with prosocial associates.