Making choices has consequences. This is especially true once a person becomes involved or has an issue with the American criminal justice system. Every action, decision, or choice they make will have consequence and will affect every aspect of how they are perceived. A defendant in a criminal case needs to be careful to ensure they make the right choices. In the video, “What is the Pre-Sentencing Investigation? Why is the PSR important?” Justin Paperny and Mike Berlon of White Collar Advice discuss one of the most important documents a defendant will submit prior to being sentenced, the pre-sentence report prepared by the Pre-trial Services Officer. The pre-sentence report will dictate how both the United States Department of Justice and the Federal Bureau of Prisons view a defendant during the entire time the defendant is in Bureau of Prison custody.

It is important for a defendant to prepare for the pre-sentencing report interview. The interview takes place in preparation for the sentencing hearing after the defendant is convicted or enters into a plea agreement. As Justin discusses in the opening of the video, the choice of details given by the defendant during their pre-sentence interview will have a lasting effect. It is important for the defendant to be prepared and approach the interview with an appropriate demeanor. Just as critical as knowing what not to say is the inclusion of beneficial details which can supply the basis for early release and the shortening of your sentence. Statements of the defendant included in the pre-sentencing report effect and influence the determination of your sentence, including duration, security classification and medical care.

The pre-sentence report is a chronicle of the entire history of a defendant. The presentencing report starts with a detailed account of the charges against the defendant. This part of the report gives a detailed account of the procedural history of the defendant’s case and includes an evaluation of the statement of facts as offered in the defendant’s plea agreement. The report discusses all the charges brought against the defendant and details the offense on which the defendant was convicted. This portion of the report includes a victim impact report and other adjustments which affect the sentencing guidelines determinations. A defendant, along with his legal representative, should review the information is this section of the report for relevance and accuracy.

During the pre-sentencing interview, the pre-sentencing officer will compile a narrative of the defendant’s personal life, family history and medical history. The personal history report begins with a detailed perspective of the defendant’s childhood. The environment and home life experienced during the defendant’s foundational years are presented. The story should include the both the successes, failures and traumas of the young defendant’s upbringing. Care should be observed by the defendant to include any dystopia suffered during his formative years. The same treatment should be used to describe the major events throughout the defendant’s life. Friendships, relationships, marriages, deaths and births are relevant occasions. It is imperative the defendant be completely open and thoroughly detailed. The defendant should account for positive and negative milestones experienced in life. The defendant health and well-being are a major area to explain and detail.

From the perspective of the Bureau of Prisons, the pre-sentencing report is the bible on everything concerning the defendant. The pre-sentencing report has lasting implications well past sentencing. Once the defendant is in custody only what is written in the pre-sentencing report exists and any information excluded did not happen and does not exist. This all or nothing attitude by Bureau of Prison administrators and personnel is especially true in regards to medical conditions, family relationships and financial conditions.
Information included in the pre-sentencing report requires verification. The pre-trial services officer will try to authenticate any specifics you refer to during the interview. Be prepared, it is helpful to bring documentation of any claims you will make during the interview process. The ability to turn over letters from doctors regarding any medical ailment, including documentation regarding mental health services is beneficial and useful.

One of the programs available to prisoners allowing them to subtract a year of the time off their sentence is the Residential Drug Abuse Program, referred to by prison officials as RDAP. Qualification for acceptance to the program while in prison can be mandated by the Judge. If your pre-sentencing report includes evidence of psychological treatment for the abuse of alcohol, drugs or medication the defendant will have a strong case for the Judge to mandate the Resident Drug Abuse Program.

Current legislation can provide for home confinement, a reduction in sentence or compassionate release based upon a multitude of factors. While most effective considerations related to a commutation or release relate to risk factors faced by the prisoner while incarcerated, in certain circumstances it is a change of conditions in the lives of family members leading to this type of relief. The availability for a defendant to take advantage of these types of opportunities may depend on inclusion of the facts and events leading to the disability or change in conditions being included in the pre-sentencing report.

I was in Bureau of Prison custody when the First Step Act was enacted. I witnessed how certain prisoners were able to take advantage of the new legislation only due to particular facts being included in their pre-sentencing report. No one foresaw the changes in the law, so the importance of putting as much information about yourself in the report cannot be understated. In the video, Mike gives excellent examples of the types of information you should include. Justin and he are adamant in recommending defendants to be over inclusive, open and honest in revealing the most intimate or potentially embarrassing facts to the probation officer.

In a final note, Justin and Mike discuss amending the pre-sentencing report for those defendants whose pre-trial probation last longer than six to nine months. Some defendants can have years of time of pre-trial probation and during this period conditions in health, living situation can radically change and the defendant should collaborate with his legal representative to ensure the changes of circumstance are included in the defendant’s record.