In federal prison I quickly learned how many men were not prepared for their pre sentence investigation. Since then, I have learned several reasons contribute to an individual’s being unprepared for the Presentence Investigation Report.

Some of the more common reasons follow:

• Anxieties about the criminal justice process kept the individual in a state of denial. Intense and conflicting emotions can cloud an individual’s ability to reason logically. In many cases, the stress can paralyze an individual.

• Defendants who invest themselves in fantasies about prevailing during a trial with an acquittal do not think about the consequences that can follow a conviction until it’s too late.

• The Presentence Investigation happens so quickly after the conviction that the defendant didn’t have time to educate himself on the implications of this process.

• In some cases, the defense attorney failed to appreciate the magnitude of influence that the PSI document would have on the incarceration process.

Many of the men I interviewed at Taft Camp, and now as a prison consultant, cited their lack of understanding of the PSR as being a significant factor. Frequently, those individuals explained how and why the PSR report resulted in them:

• Being ineligible for participation in programs (like RDAP- Residential Drug Abuse Program) that could have led to their early release.

• Serving time in higher-security prisons than should have been the case.

• Serving sentences under harsher conditions than should have been the case.

• Having less access to telephone, email and visiting, thereby making the time in prison more difficult.

• Being misclassified in ways that brought unnecessary frustrations and complications while they served their sentence.

• Receiving sentences at the high end of the guideline range

• Despite dire financial circumstances, still being hit with a fine, in addition to their criminal restitution.

Yesterday, I received a call from a defendant who had called me two months ago. At the time he was days away from his pre sentencing investigation. I offered some suggestions but he was not really welcoming of them. Rather he issued clichés like, “Hey it is what it is, whatever happens happens.”

Clichés turned to panic after he called this morning to tell me the probation officer who wrote the report was recommending a huge fine, and a sentence at the high end of the range. Guideline sentencing ranges don’t range in days or weeks, but years. This defendant now has even more regret. Besides his guilty plea, he is beginning to see the consequences of indifference or neglect.

If you have yet to sit for your pre sentence report, profit from his losses, and prepare.

Feel free to schedule a call with me to learn more.

Justin Paperny