Justice and Law Enforcement:

Presentence Evaluations of Offenders Can Be More Responsive to the Needs of the Judiciary

GGD-85-14: Published: Apr 9, 1985. Publicly Released: Apr 9, 1985.

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In order to report on how presentence psychiatric evaluations can be improved, GAO reviewed: (1) 157 cases where offenders were committed to the Federal Prison System for observation and study; and (2) 83 local studies ordered during fiscal year (FY) 1981.

GAO found that the observation and study process has not been as useful as it could be because the Judicial Conference of the United States and the Federal Prison System have not: (1) established criteria for the selection of appropriate cases for observation and study; (2) developed and disseminated guidance on the types of questions that experts can be expected to answer; or (3) established a system to evaluate whether studies have met the needs of the district courts. GAO found that judges did not provide study objectives and referral questions in 76 of the 157 cases it examined. In addition, GAO found that about 78 percent of all studies ordered in FY 1981 were performed by the Federal Prison System. GAO also found that the average cost of Federal Prison System studies was approximately twice the cost of local studies, and Federal Prison System studies took approximately twice as long to complete. For over 10 years, the Parole Commission has believed that its involvement in the studies for youthful offenders should be terminated. However, the enactment of the Comprehensive Crime Control Act should make a number of changes which should improve the process.

Status Legend:

More Info
  • Review Pending-GAO has not yet assessed implementation status.
  • Open-Actions to satisfy the intent of the recommendation have not been taken or are being planned, or actions that partially satisfy the intent of the recommendation have been taken.
  • Closed-implemented-Actions that satisfy the intent of the recommendation have been taken.
  • Closed-not implemented-While the intent of the recommendation has not been satisfied, time or circumstances have rendered the recommendation invalid.
    • Review Pending
    • Open
    • Closed - implemented
    • Closed - not implemented

    Recommendations for Executive Action

    Recommendation: The Judicial Conference, through the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts and the Federal Judicial Center, and the Attorney General, through the Federal Prison System, should form a partnership to establish a system for regular evaluation of whether the studies performed for the district courts are responsive to their needs.

    Agency Affected: Department of Justice

    Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: Sentencing guidelines provided structure GAO found lacking in 1985. Changing conditions imply that this recommendation is no longer applicable. GAO will consider this as it assesses guidelines over the next 3 years.

    Recommendation: The Judicial Conference, through the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts and the Federal Judicial Center, and the Attorney General, through the Federal Prison System, should form a partnership to develop and disseminate guidance to district courts on the types of questions that clinical experts can be expected to answer.

    Agency Affected: Department of Justice

    Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: Sentencing guidelines provided structure GAO found lacking in 1985. Changing conditions imply that this recommendation is no longer applicable. GAO will consider this as it assesses guidelines over the next 3 years.

    Recommendation: The Judicial Conference, through the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts and the Federal Judicial Center, and the Attorney General, through the Federal Prison System, should form a partnership to develop and disseminate guidance to district courts on the types of questions that clinical experts can be expected to answer.

    Agency Affected: Department of Justice

    Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: Sentencing guidelines provided structure GAO found lacking in 1985. Changing conditions imply that this recommedation is no longer applicable. GAO will consider this as it assesses guidelines over the next 3 years.

    Recommendation: The Judicial Conference, through the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts and the Federal Judicial Center, and the Attorney General, through the Federal Prison System, should form a partnership to develop criteria for the selection of cases appropriate for observation and study.

    Agency Affected: Department of Justice

    Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: Sentencing guidelines provided structure GAO found lacking in 1985. Changing conditions imply that this recommendation is no longer applicable. GAO will consider this as it assesses guidelines over the next 3 years.

    Recommendation: The Judicial Conference, through the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts and the Federal Judicial Center, and the Attorney General, through the Federal Prison System, should form a partnership to develop criteria for the selection of cases appropriate for observation and study.

    Agency Affected: Judicial Conference of the United States

    Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: Sentencing guidelines provided structure GAO found lacking in 1985. Changing conditions imply that this recommendation is no longer applicable. GAO will consider this as are assessed guidelines over the next 3 years.

    Recommendation: The Judicial Conference, through the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts and the Federal Judicial Center, and the Attorney General, through the Federal Prison System, should form a partnership to establish a system for regular evaluation of whether the studies performed for the district courts are responsive to their needs.

    Agency Affected: Judicial Conference of the United States

    Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: Sentencing guidelines provided structure GAO found lacking in 1985. Changing conditions imply that this recommendation is no longer applicable. GAO will consider this as it assesses guidelines over the next 3 years.

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