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The Probation Officer Investigates

The Probation Officer Investigates: A Guide to the Presentence Report

Paul W. Keve
Copyright Date: 1960
Edition: NED - New edition
Pages: 192
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  • Book Info
    The Probation Officer Investigates
    Book Description:

    The Probation Officer Investigates was first published in 1960. Paul W. Keve is an outstanding practitioner in the field of probation and parole. From his own experience and observation, he has prepared this guide to help others in an important aspect of their work. He points out: “Each probation officer makes his own contribution to the public’s eventual acceptance of a constructive penal philosophy by the high quality of his daily work. If that work is to be truly and consistently rehabilitative, it must be based upon sound diagnosis of each case, and this, of course, is the concern of this book.” A major task of probation officers is to investigate offenders before their courts and then to write comprehensive and analytical reports about the offenders, for the use of the court. In this book, Mr. Keve explains the philosophy of the preparation of pre-sentence reports and discusses in specific detail the techniques of preparing these reports in a significant, diagnostic way. He considers the problems of confidentiality, relationships with attorneys, techniques of interviewing, and style and format in the writing of the report. He proposes a form for a standard report, and discusses, separately, each category of material to be included. He reproduces two examples of actual (but disguised) reports in an appendix. The book will be particularly helpful to new probation officers. It will be useful, also, to the more experienced staff members, for inservice training programs, and in academic courses in the correctional field. For judges and attorneys, it provides insight into the philosophy and purposes of the probation report.

    eISBN: 978-0-8166-6328-6
    Subjects: Law

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Preface
    (pp. v-vi)
    P. W. K.
  3. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)

    • 1 A Private Document
      (pp. 3-15)

      A profound and exciting thing is happening in our lifetime. After persisting for centuries in an eye-for-an-eye, tooth-for-a-tooth concept of criminal justice, our society’s philosophy of crime and its control is now making a massive turn in the direction of an individualized handling of offenders that for the first time regularly considers the offender himself, and not just his offense. This is not to say that all our forebears have followed only one pattern of thought and action in this respect until now. There have always been voices in the wilderness, but until our own generation each voice which urged...

    • 2 The Defense Attorney
      (pp. 16-20)

      The defense attorney deserves his share of notice when we talk about presentence reports because, whatever our experience with or our opinion of him, he is an important part of the whole process and we must know and appreciate his role. The average experienced probation officer is likely to have mixed feelings about dealing with defense attorneys after he has seen the wide variation they show in competence and attitude. As a result, probation officers may tend to be either too intimate with the attorneys or else too remote from them.

      Some probation officers have their relations with attorneys well...

    • 3 We Interview
      (pp. 21-40)

      Of course the most important step in the investigation process is that first interview with the defendant, and if you handle it skillfully you not only have the basis for a truly competent report, but you also have gone a long way toward launching the treatment job that must develop later. It is because I stoutly believe the investigation to be the beginning of the treatment process that the interview techniques will be discussed here.

      All good statements of interviewing principles start with the precept that the interview should be conducted in a quiet, relaxing, private spot, free of distractions....

    • 4 To Give It Style
      (pp. 41-47)

      To a certain extent the writer’s style must remain his proud possession — the sign of his own individuality. In fact this individuality will not be denied, even by whatever is done to provide uniformity of format, for there may still be a flavor about each writer’s composition that will be his very own. Within certain limits this is as it should be, and yet the presentence report is not a free lancer’s paper. It belongs to a department or to a court for which the writer is engaged to work, and so he is properly obligated to restrict his...

    • 5 To Give It Life
      (pp. 48-51)

      The fact of really central importance in the making of any presentence report is that it is the first specific step in the process of individualizing the offender. It is the key document that, more than any other, symbolizes the vast change that our civilization is just now making: leaving our long cherished practice of “make-the-punishment-fit-the-crime” and embracing cautiously but ever more enthusiastically the revolutionary new practice of “provide-treatment-to-fit-the-offender.”

      In writing the presentence report we need to be aware of its role in making our new philosophy effective, and it is for this reason that I am trying here to...

    • 6 To Give It Form
      (pp. 52-54)

      It may seem a bit contradictory to talk about the great importance of individualizing presentence reports while at the same time advocating standard formats that are unvarying from one report to the next. In fact many probation offices allow the format to be optional, with each individual officer following his own favorite design, or allow reports to vary from case to case according to the content of each. But in this discussion, despite my emphasis upon individualizing, I shall argue the importance of a standard report format that never, never (well, hardly ever) varies.

      The advocates of flexibility of format...


    • 7 The Identifying Data
      (pp. 57-63)

      Judging by widespread practice, there seems to be very little question about the desirability of beginning the presentence report with what can be called an identifying data section. It does appear, however, that there is some lively argument as to what material it should include, for there is a remarkably wide range of practice in this regard. The accompanying form is my offering of a serviceable and perhaps minimal identifying data section.

      To become slightly fanciful, this section may be considered the “face” which the report presents and, like the human face, it will be the first quick clue to...

    • 8 The section on The Offense
      (pp. 64-75)

      Before he is prepared to write a really competent account of the offense, the presentence report author must have some idea of what the goal should be, or what purpose the account is to serve. After all, the police have already investigated the offense and written their report on it. The prosecuting attorney has checked up on it too, and these reports have been available to the judge. Furthermore, if the case was tried, the judge has perhaps heard every detail of the offense minutely described. What additional purpose is then to be served by producing a thrice-told tale?


    • 9 The section on The Prior Record
      (pp. 76-80)

      In the prehearing report in juvenile cases it is appropriate to change this heading to something more in keeping with the noncriminal approach, something such as Previous Problems. Also in the juvenile report this section will tend to be presented a little more like a narrative than in the adult case. With the adult it is acceptable to list previous offenses and their dispositions with a minimum of evaluative comment, as in this example.

      The following record has been found for this defendant:

      For the juvenile court we will be expected to give a little more of the story in...

    • 10 The section on The Family
      (pp. 81-93)

      Presentence reports from most probation offices show a lively interest in the family history, but they all differ markedly in the arrangement of this material. On casual thought it might seem that the arrangement of the material is not highly important as long as all pertinent facts are included somewhere. However, the matter of arrangement has an importance that should not be considered lightly. In many of the formats being used, for instance, the history of the family is presented in a section separate from the personal history of the subject himself. Typical of these is one format which has...

    • 11 The section on The Residence
      (pp. 94-98)

      This is one section of the report in which we are talking aboutthingsa little more than we are talking aboutpeople. Residence is construed here as the physical aspects of the house, flat, apartment, trailer, or whatever abode the client has. It also goes beyond this to include the surrounding physical, and perhaps even cultural, environment.

      Admittedly there are times when very little is contributed by this section, but nevertheless there is important potential in a good picture of the defendant’s residence. If he is grown-up and away from his parental home, he is living in a home...

    • 12 The section on Religion
      (pp. 99-102)

      It seems to be generally expected that this section will be one of the shortest in the report, and often it is quite true that there is little to say beyond the all-too-familiar observation that the defendant has no church connections and no interest in religious matters. But usually there is at least some faint denominational background, and we should give it as close a look as possible to see just what helpful potential we can uncover.

      First, this section should be a simple, factual statement of past and present church membership, that is, the denomination preferred, the particular church...

    • 13 The section on Education
      (pp. 103-106)

      Probably more than any other section of the report, this one will vary according to the age of the client. This time I should discuss the juvenile case first.

      It is to the splendid advantage of the probation officer that the modern school is keeping far more information about its pupils as social beings than the schools of not many years ago. The probation officer can hardly be excused for failing to exploit this mine of information unless the investigation is done during the summer and the school is very much closed. In fact, the efficient officer will maintain a...

    • 14 The section on Employment
      (pp. 107-113)

      The account of the client’s work record can be one of the dullest portions of the report at the same time that it is one of the most important parts. It would seem to be one of the simpler portions to write, but there are some aspects of it that are often overlooked. It should, of course, provide a compendium of the jobs the defendant has held, but it must go far beyond a mere listing and include some evaluative comments.

      It is obvious that the defendant’s employment history constitutes one of the more important indicators of his stability, his...

    • 15 The section on Interests and Activities
      (pp. 114-118)

      A review of formats from representative probation offices shows that in less than half of these offices the reports include a section on interests and activities. In some of the other formats there is a suggestion that this type of material should be included under some other heading, but nevertheless this is a category of information that deserves better attention than this.

      Perhaps it is more useful in juvenile rather than adult cases. The young person in his teens is frequently involved in a greater variety of hobby or recreational activities than he is in later life when his employment...

    • 16 Health: The subsection on Physical Health
      (pp. 119-129)

      Notwithstanding the use of two separate chapters here in discussing physical and mental health, it is my view that in the presentence or prehearing report it is philosophically appropriate to combine these into one over-all section on the subject of health. This, after all, is in keeping with our modern knowledge of the intimate relationship between physical and emotional well-being.

      Even though in most of your reports the health section will be quite brief, it is not justifiably so unless you have been reasonably careful to eliminate any possible health factors. This would be one of the first steps taken...

    • 17 Health: The subsection on Mental Health and Personality
      (pp. 130-142)

      The title of this subsection is easily subject to some variation according to the emphasis that seems important in any particular probation office. It might be Mental and Emotional Health, for instance. But the word “personality” is broad in its connotation, and so it is quite serviceable for a section that should attempt to describe those intangible characteristics of a person that are the emotional or psychological evidences of all his experiences and heritage described elsewhere in the report.

      If it is important to you to include an evaluation as a separate section elsewhere, then this subsection will not be...

    • 18 The section on Resources
      (pp. 143-146)

      In the format for reports in juvenile cases there is seldom any need for including this section. Ordinarily this is appropriate only to the emancipated person, and it describes his economic condition (or potential) and his ways of handling his business or financial affairs. Earlier portions of the report have already suggested something of the financial condition of the defendant. The employment section has told of the man’s money-making history; and other sections such as the one on residence give a glimpse of the amount the defendant pays in rent or perhaps the sort of house he is buying. But...

    • 19 The sections on The Summary and the Plan
      (pp. 147-158)

      A study of report-writing practices around the country shows an interesting confusion on how to present a summary, an evaluation, and a recommendation. Often these are merged into one section, but even when they are separate there is likely to be much overlapping of their content. It is my view that the summary should be optional and should be a separate section, that the evaluation should be incorporated elsewhere (see Chapter 17), and that the recommendation should become a “plan” and a separate section. However, since these are so often combined, it is hard to discuss them separately, and this...

  6. Appendix
    (pp. 161-175)
    John J. Doe
  7. Bibliography
    (pp. 176-176)
  8. Index
    (pp. 177-178)