How your presentence interview is the key to reducing your sentence and make your prison term successful.

All hell had broken loose in my life. As I sat and waited for my friend, a federal defense attorney, to arrive at my home I was hopeful that he would be able to talk to me about how to reduce my sentence and how to survive what were sure to become the worst days of my life. I was both wrong and right.  The advice he gave me did lead to a shorter sentence but it also helped to prevent what lied ahead of me from becoming the worst years of my life.

I was an attorney who found himself on the wrong side of a federal investigation. Unfortunately, for someone in that situation, I knew nothing about the criminal justice system.  That is when I was told that the most important people I would be dealing with at that point in my life would not be the judge, my lawyer, or even the United States attorney, instead it would be any and all probation officers I would come into contact with. This did not make sense to me; why would the people who are in charge of you after your sentence is over be so important for reducing your senates and helping make your prison term easier?  I was about to get an education. 

The Most Important Interview Of Your Life: The Presentence Interview

The Most Important Interview Of Your Life: The Presentence Interview

Although I followed the advice and treated each probation officer with the utmost respect and reverence, I did not understand until I got to prison that the probation officer who conducts and prepares your presentence interview report has the largest effect on your sentence and how you will serve your prison term of anyone in the process. That is what makes this interview the most important interview in your life.

When you are sentenced the judge relies on the presentence report, which is prepared by a probation officer, to determine the length of your sentence. Probation officers are actually considered an arm of the court, whose purpose at the presentence investigation stage is to perform a fact-finding mission for your sentencing judge. Your judge will rely on the contents of the report to weigh the factors for your sentencing and guide any recommendations he might make. Beyond sentencing the contents of your Presentence Report will follow you through your incarceration and even when you are released to a Residential Reentry Center, or “halfway house”.

So, when you prepare for your interview – and by all means, make sure you prepare for it –  I want you to keep two simple rules in mind.  First, be honest.  This is a rule that you should use with every person involved in the investigation of your case.  I have met and worked with too many people whose attorneys advised them to keep certain facts out of their interviews.  This presents a problem when the advice is to avoid being totally honest about your prior history of substance or alcohol abuse. When you keep this information from the probation officer it may prevent you from taking advantage of the Bureau of Prison’s Residential Drug Abuse Program (“RDAP”).  The benefits to this program are numerous.  

If you are reading this article you are probably worried about shortening your sentence – in fact, the RDAP can help reduce the time you spend in a federal prison by up to 24 months.  However, and the reason that my time in prison did not become the worst days of my life, the benefits that can be gained by participating in the Program are limitless.  Because I was honest during my interview, I was eligible for the RDAP and used it to change my life.  That I left my prison 18 months early was an added bonus.

The second rule is actually for after the report is written and provided to you and your attorney.  This one was hard for me because I did not want to read about my case, but it can make a huge difference in the sentence you get:  Read every word of your report.  The probation officer is human and he or she will be relying on multiple people for the information that goes into your report – investigators, United States Attorneys, your attorney, medical providers, family members, and yourself.  It is your responsibility to make sure that the information contained in the report is accurate.  Changing this information after you are sentenced is nearly impossible.  Make sure you get it right; it will affect you.  

While following these rules will help you, they are only part of what you can do to use your interview to reduce your federal sentence. For more information contact me directly to discuss how I can help prepare you for your interview and review your Presentence Report to assure that you receive the shortest sentence possible.  

Mark Brunty

Religious Services in Federal Prison

Earlier today, a prison consulting client asked me about religious services in federal prison. We had a lenghty discussion on the topic. Following our discussion of religious services in federal prison, I decided to write up a short summary. I hope it helps you....

The Most Important Interview of Your Life: The Presentence Interview
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