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Chapter 2: Reporting to Probation Officer (Probation and Supervised Release Conditions)

A. Statutory Authority

Under 18 U.S.C. § 3563(b)(15), the court may provide that the defendant “report to a probation officer as directed by the court or the probation officer.”

B. Standard Condition Language

After initially reporting to the probation office, you will receive instructions from the court or the probation officer about how and when you must report to the probation officer, and you must report to the probation officer as instructed.

C. Purpose

  1. This condition serves the statutory sentencing purposes of public protection and rehabilitation. 18 U.S.C. § 3553(a)(2)(C) and (D).
  2. This condition enables the probation officer to satisfy the statutory requirements to be responsible for any defendant known to be in the judicial district, instruct the defendant about the conditions of supervision specified by the sentencing court, keep informed of the conduct and condition of the defendant, report the defendant’s conduct and condition to the sentencing court, and aid the defendant and bring about improvements in his or her conduct and condition. 18 U.S.C. §§ 3603(1)-(4) and (7), 3563(d), 3583(f).
  3. This condition imposes an obligation on the defendant to maintain contact with the probation officer.
  4. By allowing the probation officer to keep informed of the defendant’s conduct and condition, this condition facilitates the implementation of supervision methods demonstrated by social science to be effective at achieving positive outcomes.
    1. Research suggests that correctional interventions that follow the principles of evidence-based practices (e.g., the risk principle, the need principle, and the responsivity principle) promote positive change in the defendant and reduce the probability of recidivism. Probation officers employ evidence-based correctional practices in their interactions with defendants and direct defendants to services to assist them – such as substance abuse or mental health treatment, medical care, training, or employment assistance – as ordered by the court. If probation officers are not aware of the defendant’s conduct and condition, they are less able to employ effective practices in their interactions with defendants or to monitor their participation in correctional programs (see: Chapter 1, Section III(A)(1)).
    2. Research suggests that exposure to antisocial associates increases the probability of recidivism. If probation officers keep informed of the defendant’s conduct, including the defendant’s associations, they may be able to implement strategies to reduce antisocial associates (see: Chapter 1, Section III(A)(2)).
    3. Research suggests that the probability of recidivism is reduced when defendants develop and maintain prosocial bonds to family, school, and work. If the probation officer is informed of the defendant’s conduct, the officer may be able to implement supervision strategies to assist with the development and maintenance of prosocial bonds (see: Chapter 1, Section III(A)(3)).
    4. Research suggests that for a criminal event to exist, there must be an opportunity to commit a crime. Probation officers may work with defendants on supervision, family members, neighbors, other community members, and law enforcement agencies to structure and monitor the defendant’s routine activities and reduce the extent to which defendants come into contact with criminal opportunities. Probation officers may also monitor defendants through contacts with the defendant and his or her social network; verifying employment; restricting travel; and providing positive reinforcement for prosocial routine activities. If probation officers are informed of the defendant’s conduct and condition, they may be able to implement supervision strategies to reduce criminal opportunities (see: Chapter 1, Section III(A)(4)).

D. Method of Implementation

  1. Reporting by the defendant to the probation officer is a core supervision strategy required for the probation officer to stay informed and implement controlling and correctional supervision strategies.
  2. At the beginning of the supervision process, the probation officer instructs the defendant about the conditions of supervision and provides the defendant with a written statement of the conditions. Additionally, the probation officer explains the required manner of reporting (i.e., in writing, by telephone, electronically, by visiting the probation office, by allowing visits to the home or elsewhere in the community) and the required frequency of reporting.
  3. Regardless of the reporting method, probation officers assess numerous factors, including the defendant’s residence (e.g., the identity of other residents, the identity of frequent visitors), employment (e.g., work hours, reasons for any absences from work), financial statements (e.g., changes in cash inflows or outflows, unusual expenditures), and associations with others (e.g., whether defendant has prosocial or negative associations).
  4. Supporting documentation to reporting may include, as appropriate, written documents to verify change in residence, employment, expenses, community service hours, attendance at a community-sponsored drug or alcohol support program, or automobile registration.
  5. Throughout the period of supervision, the probation officer may adjust the frequency of reporting depending on the defendant’s risk level and his or her progress on supervision. For instance, in the case of lower-risk defendants who demonstrate positive supervision progress, the probation officer may require the defendant to report less frequently. Conversely, in the case of higher-risk defendants or those who do not demonstrate positive supervision progress, the probation officer may require the defendant to report more frequently.
  6. The probation officer may also adjust the manner of reporting (i.e., visiting the defendant at the home rather than requiring visits to the probation office or permitting reporting by telephone rather than in writing) depending on the risk and needs in the individual case. In some circumstances, reporting to the probation officer at the home, the place of employment, or other locations in the community may be more informative and minimize disruption to the defendant’s employment, family, or home environment. In other circumstances, reporting to the probation office itself may be more appropriate, including during an initial interview to review file documentation and clarify supervision obligations; when needed to collect and review complex financial documentation; when a safe environment is needed to discuss noncompliance with conditions of supervision or other difficult issues; and when repeated attempts to locate the defendant in the community have failed.
  7. Probation officers are to respond immediately to indications of heightened risk by formulating strategies designed to prevent or ameliorate the effects of behavior not in compliance with the conditions of supervision. Among the early warning signs that a defendant may be at risk to recidivate are that the defendant does not report on time to the probation officer or the defendant’s demeanor and attitude toward the probation officer change dramatically.
  8. For defendants who qualify for low-risk supervision standards under Judicial Conference policy (see: Chapter 1, Section II(C)(1)), probation officers should generally use written, electronic, or telephonic reporting as the primary method of keeping informed rather than in-person reporting, and they should review and compare any documents accompanying reports to verify residence, employment, and payment of outstanding financial penalties.