The Presentence Investigation Report (PSR), which is prepared by a U.S. Probation Officer, is one of the most important documents in the federal criminal sentencing process, providing the basis for important sentencing decisions made by the Court. In preparing the report, U.S. Probation Officers function as independent fact finders for the Court and provide the Court with relevant, unbiased information.
Though the primary purpose of the PSR is to assist the Court in its sentencing function, the report is also a valuable resource to the Bureau of Prisons in determining which institution the person being sentenced will serve his/her sentence, selecting prison programs that will help the individual and making release plans. The report is also used for future supervision of the individual by the U.S. Pretrial Services & Probation Office upon release from prison. The information contained in each section of the report provides these agencies with valuable intelligence, which will assist them in their respective functions. Thus, it is crucial that the U.S. Probation Officer present complete, verified information regarding the individual's background, character, and conduct.
To complete the presentence report, a probation officer conducts a thorough presentence investigation into the circumstances of the offense and the person's criminal background and characteristics. The officer gathers information two ways: by conducting interviews and by reviewing documents. The cornerstone of the investigation is the interview with the individual, during which the officer inquires about such things as the individual's family, education, employment, finances, physical and mental health, and alcohol/substance abuse. The officer also conducts a home visit to assess the individual's living conditions, family relationships, and community ties.
The officer also interviews other people who can provide pertinent information about the person (i.e., a spouse, child, parent, employer) and the offense (victims, prosecutor, investigating agent, co-conspirators).
The Northern District of Ohio provides the Court with a comprehensive PSR in every case which is accurate and distinguishes between information which is verified and unverified as well as the difference between fact and opinion. Furthermore, U.S. Probation Officers in the Northern District of Ohio present a thorough personal profile of each person, recognizing that others rely upon that information to classify prisoners and supervise individuals after their release.