What I Knew About the Presentence Investigation Before Sentencing

By · Tuesday, February 3rd, 2009

I was 23-years-old when my troubles with the criminal justice system began. At the time, I had never been incarcerated and I certainly didn’t know much about how my Presentence Investigation Report would influence the sentence Judge Tanner would impose. All indications I had received from my lawyer were that Judge Tanner handed down tough sentences, and I had better brace myself for the worst. I did.

When I participated in the presentence investigation with my probation officer, I was grateful for an opportunity to apologize for my actions. Up until that time, I had been under the spell of my previous attorney who had convinced me that the best approach was denial. I knew that I stood guilty of the criminal charges against me, yet my attorney persuaded me that with the right amount of money, I would prevail through trial. I was predisposed to accept such advice. After my conviction, however, I recognized the enormity of my error in judgment.

I did not know whether the PSI would influence my sentence. Even now, after more than 21 years of imprisonment, I do not know whether it played a role. The judge could have imposed a life term. My probation officer responded well to my expressions of remorse and recommended 15 years. Judge Tanner used his discretion and sentenced me to 45 years.

Although I do not know whether the PSI influenced my judge, the PSI has had an essential influence over my prison term. Prison administrators rely on the PSI extensively in classifying each prisoner. They rely upon the PSI to determine such issues as an inmate’s classification, housing status, work detail, program eligibility, visitation privileges, and halfway house placement. I did not know how relevant the PSI would be not only to my sentencing, but also to my entire journey through prison. I advise incoming prisoners to learn everything they can about the Presentence Investigation Report before they meet with their probation officers.

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