After a defendant enters a guilty plea or is convicted by trial, he or she will be interviewed by an officer to gather the following information:
- family history
- community ties
- education background
- employment history
- physical health
- mental and emotional health
- history of substance abuse, financial condition, and
- willingness to accept responsibility for his or her offense(s)
During the presentence investigation, the officer will interview other people who can provide pertinent information and review numerous documents and records.
When possible, the officer will conduct a home visit to meet the defendant and the defendant’s family. During the visit, the officer will interview the family and/or assesses the defendant’s living conditions and suitability for potential supervision conditions, such as location monitoring.
The officer will verify, evaluate, and interpret the information gathered and present it to the court in an organized, objective presentence report. This report will also include the officer’s investigation into the offense of conviction and the sentencing options under the applicable federal statutes and United States Sentencing Guidelines.
The presentence report helps the court fashion appropriate and fair sentences and is used by officers later assigned to supervise the offender. The supervising officer uses the information contained in the presentence report as part of a comprehensive approach to assess risks posed by, and the needs of, offenders under supervision.
The report is disclosed to the defendant, defense attorney, and prosecutor, each of whom have the opportunity to make objections or seek changes.
At the conclusion of a presentence investigation, the officer will formulate an appropriate sentencing recommendation that will be provided to the court.
After sentencing, presentence reports are used by the Bureau of Prisons to designate the institutions appropriate for an offender to serve their sentences, to select prison programs to help the offenders, and to develop case plans for their custody and eventual release. The report is also forwarded to the U.S. Sentencing Commission, which uses the report to monitor the application of the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and to gather statistics about sentencing trends.