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Sentencing/Post Conviction

Offenders Face Bans on Gambling, Alcohol, Live-in Boyfriends, Computers

Posted Aug 13, 2009 8:46 AM CDT
By Debra Cassens Weiss

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Courts are grappling with supervised release terms that go beyond the usual restrictions on drug use and law-breaking.

Some felons convicted in federal courts are challenging restrictions on their post-prison life that they contend are arbitrary or too broad, the Wall Street Journal reports. The restrictions include bans on gambling, alcohol, live-in boyfriends, driving, inappropriate clothing and computer use.

The federal sentencing guidelines allow judges to impose special conditions during supervised release. These restrictions must be related to the crime and can’t cause “unnecessary deprivations” of liberty, the story says.

In one case, single mother Briane Woods of Odessa, Texas, convicted of distributing crack cocaine, was barred from living with anyone other than a relative or a spouse after her release from prison, the story says. U.S. District Judge Robert Junell of Midland, Texas, said he imposed the restriction to impose “stability” in Woods’ home. An appeals court struck down the ban last year as a restriction on Woods’ “constitutional right to liberty.”

In another case, William Robert Bender was sentenced to 18 months in prison for violating his supervised release terms by viewing adult pornography online at a public library. Bender’s prior conviction was for traveling from Missouri to Texas to have sex with a teenager he met online on a library computer when he was 27 years old. The supervised release terms barred Bender from possessing a computer or frequenting places where minors congregate without prior approval, and from possessing pornography or visiting a library.

A federal appeals court struck down all of the supervised release conditions except for the ban on the computer.

Bender's lawyer, federal public defender Troy Stabenow of Jefferson City, Mo., told the Wall Street Journal that supervised release conditions are increasingly strict, making it difficult to comply. "Frankly they are often crazy," he said.

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