The Effect of Probation Officer Recommendations on Case Disposition

Jennifer S. Trager, University of Cincinnati
Michelle E. Coleman, University of Cincinnati
Christopher T. Lowencamp, University of Cincinnati

Over the past 75 years the role of the probation officer has changed substantially. At times probation officers have acted as offender advocates, law enforcement officers, investigators, and prosecutors. However, one aspect of the probation officer's role that has remained constant is the act of making sentencing recommendations to the court. Some researchers contend that probation officers' recommendations have very little if any impact on judicial decision making and others claim the impacts are consistent and strong. While research has tended to show congruence between probation officer recommendations and case disposition, it has been argued that probation officers' recommendations are shaped in part by what sentence they believe the judge will impose. The current research utilizes data from a large urban county after the implementation of a determninate sentencing structure with a presumptive sentencing guidelines. The analyses focus on identifying the effects of probation officer recommendations on final case disposition and whether the probation officers' recommendations differ based on the assigned sentencing judge.

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Updated 05/20/2006