The Influence of Probation Officer Recommendations on Actual Sentencing Decisions

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Zielke, John
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Western Illinois University
The sentencing process is one of the most important phases in the criminal justice process. During this stage, the type, severity, and duration of control a convicted offender will endure is determined. Prior to sentencing, the judge often times will order a presentence investigation report which is prepared by a probation officer. This report provides the judge with pertinent information regarding the offender and offense itself. In some departments, a sentencing recommendation is submitted by the probation officer in the presentence report. One would expect judges, having little knowledge about the offender or offense itself, to view recommendations from the probation officer as important guideposts in their judicial decision making. Furthermore, one would expect a high level of agreement between probation officer's recommendations and actual sentences imposed. The research examined the relationship between probation officer's recommendations and judges actual sentencing decisions in the Seventh Judicial District, Department of Correctional Services, Davenport, Iowa. Document analysis and the testing of hypotheses were used to determine this relationship. Interviews with various judges, county attorneys, and probation officers, coupled with a Likert Scale Questionnaire attempted to determine factors which influenced decision making of the aforementioned respondents. This study found a statistically significant relationship between probation officer's recommendations and judges actual sentencing decisions. The factors that were most influential in the respondent's decision making were the offender's criminal history and seriousness of present offense. Furthermore, some judges viewed the recommendation submitted by the probation officer as influential in their decision making.
Call Number: HV8708 .Z54 1994