Thursday, February 17, 2011

Mary's Rants- Federal Probations – How to make your story believable.

This is a repost from another blog about a year ago. My guest will not be checking in today, but I thought this was interesting and helpful.

Special Guest, Anthony Maxwell; United State Probation & Pretrial Services Officer: Supervise pre and post-conviction offenders to monitor compliance with Court ordered conditions of release. Provide opportunities for offender rehabilitation while ensuring community protection. Prepare sentencing reports and recommendations for U.S. District Court Judges, U.S. Bureau of Prisons, and collateral agencies.

MARY: Thank you for agreeing to this interview, it will be very helpful to many writers. First, tell us a little more about what your job entails, maybe in terms most of us understand.

Anthony: In a nutshell, my job is to babysit criminal offenders to help ensure they do not victimize anyone/anything in the community again....while also providing rehabilitative opportunities to them so they can progress in life and become stable, productive members of society and within their own families. The basic purpose of a probation/parole officer (PO) is to provide community protection (similar to a police officer) and facilitate rehabilitation (similar to a social worker). This is accomplished by maintaining active supervision of offenders while they are living in the community and intervening in a punitive or rehabilitative nature when appropriate. An additional component is to help ensure that amends are made to crime victims....particularly when there was a financial loss caused by the crime/offender (steps are taken to make sure they pay restitution in an whatever amount is determined owing by the Court).

MARY: What is the basic difference between federal probation and a state probation officer?

Anthony: In short, the difference is the arena of jurisdiction. As a Federal PO, the caseload consists solely of those offenders convicted of Federal Crimes and vice versa for State PO's. As a general rule of thumb, any crime that involves 'inter-state commerce' can be charged in federal court....this encompasses a wide variety of criminal behavior as almost everything involves inter-state commerce at some level. Additionally, both the federal and state governments have overlapping laws involving drugs, violence, financial crimes, sex offenses, etc., that overlap in nature and feasibly be charged in either jurisdiction (but not in both for the same crime).
Additionally, as each state grants certain duties to their particular PO's (usually under auspices of that State's Department of Corrections), each Federal District dictates what their PO's can and cannot due. But as a general sketch, they all wear the hat of law enforcement, detective, social worker, victim advocate, etc, in their day to day responsibilities.

MARY: What type of training does your job require? How is it different than a police officer?

Anthony: The training I've required is essentially the same as that of a standard police officer. I had to complete the same academy wherein my fellow classmates were newly hired officers for all the various local police departments (Salt Lake City PD, So. SL PD, Midvale PD, WVC PD, etc). As with police officers, we are mandated to participate in ongoing training each year involving firearms qualification, self-defense, investigations. Similarly, all have innumerable other training opportunities during any given time that officers can engage in ranging from lie detector certification to survival courses to therapist certification....all to provide education/skills that further the mission of public safety and/or offender rehabilitation. For example, I will soon be attending training for 2 weeks at the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center in So. Carolina and we also utilize Federal Training programs via Quantico/Glynco.

MARY: What is a typical day for you?

Anthony: A typical day involves maintaining supervision of approximately 60 offenders. So
that will involve checking up on their compliance to Court ordered conditions of release via phone calls, home/employment visits, collateral contact w/therapy providers, communicating w/allied law enforcement agencies, and review of various documents that offenders may be required to submit directly to me. Each day is different in that one of my offenders may go off and do something really stupid, ranging from committing a new major crime to getting fired from a job. Whatever the circumstance that occurs in a given day I have to respond/intervene to try and ensure that compliance to Court requirements is maintained or that necessary violation proceedings are initiated. Yesterday, my partner and I were out looking for one of my offenders who was a potential suspect in a recent home-invasion robbery/ it resolved w/evidence to show the offender was not involved. Today things are relatively calm so it's paperwork and more paperwork; getting caught up so when something substantial interrupts my day I won't be to far behind!

MARY: What does this mean: ‘Prepare sentencing reports and recommendations for U.S. District Court Judges, U.S. Bureau of Prisons, and collateral agencies?’

Anthony: Probation officers, in addition to 'supervising offenders' in the community, also investigate crimes and prepare sentencing reports for Judges as they prepare to impose a sentence upon any given individual who has been convicted of a crime or entered a guilty plea to a crime. Sentencing reports prepared by PO's give all the pertinent details to the Judge (who, what, where, when, why ) about a crime as well as the defendant's personal background. This will involve contact w/attorneys, arresting officers, victims, family members, criminal background and financial background checks, community contacts, and a personal interview with the offender. The reports also spell out the different sentencing options that are legally available to the Judge.....the purpose being it saves the Judges a great deal of time and effort as they determine the appropriate and legally sound sentence they will impose. The PO provides a recommended sentence, based upon their investigation/report, but generally speaking it's ultimately up to the Judge's discretion and legal judgement as to what is appropriate. Similarly, there are various other reports that a PO may prepare for
'collateral agencies', prison officials, treatment providers, etc., so that each particular party that will be 'dealing' with the offender can make appropriate decisions regarding their area of involvement with the offender.... Kind of hard to explain each type of different report.

MARY: What roll do you play in the court system? Do you have to testify for your parolee? Is that what they are to you a parolee? Is there a better term?

Anthony: I am the 'eyes and ears' of the Judge. The Judge orders the offender to do (or not do) certain things and it is my responsibility to ensure compliance is exhibited, or report to the Judge if compliance is not shown. This is done through reports to the Judge, in chambers discussions with Judges, and/or open court testimony before a Judge. When called, I will testify before the Court as to the 'evidence' as I know it....whether that benefits the offender or has a negative affect on his supervision status cannot dictate how I testify. Generally speaking, 'testifying' usually only occurs during violation or sentencing hearings where the
offender has allegedly screwed up and the Court wants to know the information gathered or revealed by the PO, if any.

MARY: What determines probation? How harden are the criminals you deal with or have dealt with?

Anthony: It's a long and difficult legal explanation regarding probation. But a basic approach is to consider that most misdemeanors would involve probation as a potential consequence, while a felony involves the potential of prison (and subsequent parole) as a potential consequence. That doesn't mean every it has to be imposed, just that it's available.....depends on the severity of the crime, consequences, legal limitations, etc. My caseload ranges from misdemeanor marijuana possession cases to murderers, and everything in between. Some have done 30 straight years in prison and others haven't seen the inside of a jail. You conjure it up in
your literary imagination and chances are that type of offender has been, or is currently in, the "system". Some you would never want to pass in a dark alley and others are just like you and me but who made a mistake along the way.

MARY: On television all criminals insist they've been wrongly accused, they’re innocent. Has there ever been a time when you’ve strongly felt the criminal or parolee was innocent? Was there anything you could do to change the system’s decision?

Anthony: Simply put, No. But then again, my job does post-sentencing implications....everyone has the right to appeal their convictions but until they get to the point of having their conviction "overturned", they are responsible for adhering to the conditions imposed upon them by the
sentencing Court.

MARY: In a nutshell, what is the process from arrest to prison? Then the process from out on probation until a person is deemed capable of living without reporting in to an officer?

Anthony: Crime, immediate arrest or arrest following investigation, jail (bail, release?), court
process, guilt/acquitted/withdrawn, sentencing....depending on severity of offense.....(fine, probation, jail, prison, parole, singular of in varying combinations depending on crime), if paroled - successful completion and/or violation and a return to prison/parole.....

MARY: Do you or have you ever dealt with anything that involves a crime scene or forensics? When you’ve gone to visit someone, have you interrupted something and ended up making an arrest? Forgive me if I’m using the wrong terminology.

Anthony: Yes, to all..... When you show up unannounced you may encounter any given situation in progress. You are required to utilize training, experience, discretion, and/or varying resources to deal with each situation encountered.

Thank you, Anthony Maxwell, for making time in your busy schedule to answer my questions!


Cassy Pickard said...

Mary: Great posting! Anthony, what a lot of information you offer!! This is a print and save item as I write mysteries. Thanks for stopping in today and joining us. Phew, I'm going to have to read this again to take in all the bits and pieces.

Kari Lee Townsend said...

I agree Cassy, great posting Mary and Anthony. Sooo much fabulous information.

Liz Lipperman said...

Great interview, Mary. Anthony was very informative, and I agree - this is a save blog!

Lindsay said...

Reading the blog brought back memories of working as an intern in a Porbation Office when I was in college.

Mary Martinez said...

Glad you guys enjoyed it, he's my neighbor and friend. So if you ever need something answered, let me know. His two brother-in-laws are agents also.