Pre-Sentence Reports for Criminal Offenders

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[Audio Begins]

Leonard Sipes: Hi, and welcome to the radio version of D.C. Public Safety. I ‘m your host, Len Sipes. At our microphones today is Chris Kuhlman. Chris is with the diagnostic unit. Chris, did I get your last name correct?

Chris Kuhlman: That’s close enough, closer than most people.

Leonard Sipes: Okay, what is it, Chris?

Chris Kuhlman: Kuhlman.

Leonard Sipes: Kuhlman, okay. Chris, you’re with the diagnostic unit, and what do you do?

Chris Kuhlman: I write pre-sentence investigations.

Leonard Sipes: Okay, and what does that mean?

Chris Kuhlman: Well we collect information on recently convicted offenders, the investigation starts from the day the person is born and goes to the day that we interview them.

Leonard Sipes: Okay. So you’re talking about in many cases a lifetime, not in many cases, all cases you’re talking about if that person is 32 years-old, you go all the way back from day one when he was born, where he was born, what the situation was when he was born in terms of the economics, whether it was a single-parent family or not-I mean, you go that far back.

Chris Kuhlman: We do everything-education, his family history, employment history, whether he has any job skills, his criminal history, everything about that person is put into that report.

Leonard Sipes: And how long does it take to do a report like that?

Chris Kuhlman: It depends, if they have a long criminal history, that itself can take days.

Leonard Sipes: Now you go into all arrests as well?

Chris Kuhlman: We go into all arrests from all over the country-every arrest that we can find we put into that report.

Leonard Sipes: Okay. So we not only take a look at the criminal justice system in the District of Columbia or the surrounding area, we go to what is known as NCIC, the National Crime Information Center, and take a look at if that person was arrested in California, if that person was arrested in Mexico or Canada-it doesn’t matter, that goes into the report.

Chris Kuhlman: Yes, if we can find it, it goes into the report. The big problem with that is that a lot of these other jurisdictions don’t report a lot of the dispositions.

Leonard Sipes: Right.

Chris Kuhlman: Then we have to try to find out what these dispositions are in the other jurisdictions.

Leonard Sipes: Do you really? I mean, to go back just to get the dispositions-I mean, that’s an immense job. One of the problems, and for the listeners of the program, one of the problems that we have in the criminal justice system is just that, we can pretty much get arrests, but we really don’t have a lot of disposition information. And what we mean by disposition is that whether or not the person was convicted and whether or not the person was assigned to a probation or whether he was sent to jail or sent to prison, right?

Chris Kuhlman: Yeah, that’s correct. There’s-for example, I had somebody who was arrested 57 times in Maryland, and out of those 57 arrests-

Leonard Sipes: 57 times? Were these 57 separate incidents or 57 charges?

Chris Kuhlman: 57 separate arrests.

Leonard Sipes: Wow.

Chris Kuhlman: And they were all for types of fraud.

Leonard Sipes: Right.

Chris Kuhlman: And out of those 57 arrests, there were three dispositions.

Leonard Sipes: Right. And you have to go back and spend an endless amount of time going back in and checking those dispositions.

Chris Kuhlman: Yes, I had to actually go to P.G. County, that’s where the majority of the original charges were.

Leonard Sipes: Right. Did you go to the court system or did you go to the Maryland Criminal Index System?

Chris Kuhlman: Well I tried that and that was difficult getting information from them also. But I went to the state attorney’s office in Maryland and they printed up, after some coercion, they printed up all the dispositions for me.

Leonard Sipes: But that’s what the judge is expecting. The judge is expecting a complete assessment as to that person-not only their criminal history, their social history, did they drop out of school, what age did they start using drugs, the income level of the family, who this person hung with, what was the social attitude of the person, whether or not he has a mental health history-I mean, that’s just an enormous amount of information to compile for one human being.

Chris Kuhlman: Yes it is, but all those-we call those criminogenic and noncriminogenic risk factors.

Leonard Sipes: Right.

Chris Kuhlman: And that’s very important, that’s basically-that sums up our report.

Leonard Sipes: Right. And what does a judge do with this?

Chris Kuhlman: He uses all the information combined and puts it together which helps him decide what type of a sentence to give this person-whether he should just get straight jail time and also take into consideration the sentencing guidelines.

Leonard Sipes: Now they all go to federal in district code violations-violations are the code in the District of Columbia go to federal prison?

Chris Kuhlman: That’s correct.

Leonard Sipes: Okay. So my understanding is the federal prison system also uses this as an entree into their system. In fact, quite frankly regardless of how long that offender is there, this may be the most complete assessment of that person even if the person’s in federal prison for three or four years and they document everything that happens to that person in there, the best assessment may be that pre-sentence investigation.

Chris Kuhlman: Yeah that’s true, they use our reports to help them classify people when they come in. It let’s them know what their substance abuse problems are, their mental health history, whether they need help with their education, vocational training-things that can help them prepare for when they leave prison.

Leonard Sipes: Chris, do you have a sense after doing all of these-and how long have you been with the Court Services and Offender Supervision Agency?

Chris Kuhlman: I’ve been with Court Services for three years.

Leonard Sipes: Okay. Is there a sense that you get after looking at all of these? I mean, at this point you’ve done hundreds or thousands of these things, do you get a sense as to the difficulty that we have in crime and criminal justice? Does anything after doing all these reports, does anything jump out at you in terms of anything at all?

Chris Kuhlman: I think there’s three major things, that’s drug use, lack of education, and lack of job skills that I had no idea when I was in a regular supervision position, how important all those things were. But after doing these PSIs, just over and over and over again, I would say that 90% of the people that I interview lack education, lack a high school diploma or a GED, and have absolutely no job skills. I’ve interviewed people who are 30 to 35 years old that haven’t worked a day in their life.

Leonard Sipes: That’s amazing. And that’s the heart and soul of the difficulty in terms of the federal prison system trying to assist them while they’re in federal prison and when they come back out, they come back to Court Services and Offender Supervision Agency where we continue to use your pre-sentence report, your diagnostic report and again, it shows the gravity and the difficulty in terms of trying to change the lives of the individuals who we deal with.

Chris Kuhlman: Yep. Our supervision officers-that PSI is in our computer system already, when they get these cases they can review it, they can see like I said, all his criminogenic and noncriminogenic needs, what his education level is, whether he should be referred for a GED, his vocational training, whether he has a history of mental health issues-all those things are a huge help to the supervision officers.

Leonard Sipes: Chris, thanks for being here today.

Chris Kuhlman: Thank you.

[End Audio]

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