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Pretrial Services Along the Border: A District of Arizona Perspective

NCJ Number
Federal Probation Volume: 76 Issue: 2 Dated: September 2012 Pages: 21-26
David Martin; James F. Metcalf
Date Published
September 2012
6 pages
This article identifies the challenges and business practices of the Federal District of Arizona in managing its high volume of pretrial services investigations.
Due to the emphasis on border enforcement, pretrial activations (investigations) have increased 195 percent in the district over the past 3 years. In fiscal year 2011, 91 percent of the investigations were abbreviated, "modified" reports on non-citizens. These reports contain the defendant's basic identifying information, charges, immigration status, criminal history, assessments of non-appearance and danger, and a recommendation. The other 9 percent are full investigations that also include the defendant's personal history obtained from a defendant interview, and verifications made by collateral sources. Most charges involve immigration (81 percent) and drugs (15 percent). Staffing levels have risen from 59 full-time equivalents (FTEs) as of September 2008 to 69 FTEs in September 2011. The Probation and Pretrial Services Automated Case Tracking System (PACTS) database has enabled the pretrial services agency to share the workload throughout the district on the high number of modified reports generated in Tucson and Yuma. PACTS allows the officer or officer assistant to conduct the criminal records check and prepare a modified bail report so that it is accessible to any of the offices in the district. This article also describes some ways that pretrial services help other members of the court family fulfill their responsibilities. The second part of the article presents a U.S. magistrate judge's perspective on the importance of the quality of pretrial services reports in sentencing, particularly in cases in which the defendant is charged with both a felony and a misdemeanor, followed by a plea bargain that includes dismissal of the felony. In such cases, the magistrate judge may have only the pretrial services report upon which to base sentencing. 3 tables and 1 figure