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Seventh Circuit Holds Special Parole May Not be Reimposed Following Revocation

On September 16, 2015, the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals held that a term of special parole may not be re-imposed by the U.S. Parole Commission (commission) following revocation of a term of special parole imposed by a judge. Instead, early release from prison must be counted as ordinary parole.

Federal parolee George H. Edwards, Jr. appealed the denial of his 28 U.S.C. § 2241 petition for a writ of habeas corpus in which he alleged the commission lacked the authority to reimpose a term of special parole on him following his release from prison that resulted from his special parole being revoked. He asked that his parole be converted to ordinary parole.

The statute allowing, special parole was created in 1970 and repealed in 1984. Edwards falls under it because, due to a series of revocations, he is still serving a sentence of fifteen years imprisonment followed by ten years of special parole he received for a three-decades-old narcotics conviction.

Special parole is imposed by a judge at the time of sentencing and added to a sentence of imprisonment whereas ordinary parole is the commission’s granting of early release from a sentence. Under the commission’s practice, following revocation of special parole, no credit was given for time spent on parole prior to revocation (“street time”). Thus, when the commission grants re-release, the time remaining on special parole is the full amount of the original special parole, minus the amount of time served in prison due to the revocation. With ordinary parole, credit is given for “street time.”

Edwards argued that the word “revoke,” as it was used in 21 U.S.C. § 841(c) (1982 ed.) was the ordinary meaning of the word: “to invalidate or annul.” That is exactly what the court concluded in Evans v. U.S. Parole Commission, 78 F.3d 262 (7th Cir. 1996). This conclusion was called into doubt by Johnson v. United States, 529 U.S. 694 (2000), in which the Supreme Court interpreted the word “revoke” in the supervised release statue, 18 U.S.C. § 3538(e), to be an unusual definition of the word allowing reimposition of a term of supervised release following revocation.

For numerous reasons thoroughly explained in this well-reasoned decision, the court decided “that the differences between former § 841(c) and § 3538(e) predominated over the admitted similarities,” Thus, the court held that its “decision in Evans interpreting § 841(c) continues to be good law.” Therefore, it vacated and remanded the decision of the district court for the issuance of an order directing that Edwards’ term of special parole be converted to ordinary parole. See: Edwards v. Cross, 801 F.3d 869 (7th Cir. 2015).

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Related legal case

Edwards v. Cross