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85 Fed. Probation 5 (2021)

handle is hein.journals/fedpro85 and id is 1 raw text is: June 2021                                                                                                                          5

John J. Fitzgerald
Chief Probation and Pretrial Services Office
Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts

THE COVID-19        PANDEMIC       challenged
many of the institutions that society relies on,
including the criminal justice system. Changes
had to be made at every stage, from hearings
and trials to pretrial release and detention,
sentencing, incarceration, and post-conviction
supervision. The federal Judiciary, and the
federal probation and pretrial services system
in particular, relied on its unique governance
structure, talented leaders, and commitment
to the core mission to adapt operations to keep
safe those being investigated and supervised,
as well as staff, while continuing to keep the
wheels of justice moving.
This article will outline some of the mea-
sures taken by the federal probation and
pretrial services system in response to the
pandemic. It will discuss the federal Judiciary's
unique governance structure and will focus
on the steps taken at the national level to help
districts navigate through this unprecedented
period of operations. In particular, the article
will discuss the steps taken to secure resources,
modify statutes, and collaborate with other
national entities to address pandemic-related
needs. Finally, it will conclude with an assess-
ment of how lessons learned during the
pandemic may shape the future of the system.
Local and National Governance
The federal probation and pretrial services
system consists of 93 probation offices and
17 separate pretrial services offices (as of May
2021). Critical decisions regarding opera-
tions are shared among each district and
the national Judiciary entities, including
the Judicial Conference of the United States

(Conference) and the Administrative Office of
the U.S. Courts (AO).
The specific duties of pretrial services are
generally spelled out in 18 U.S.C. § 3154, and
include, among other things, preparing pre-
trial services reports, supervising defendants
released pending trial or sentencing, and con-
tracting for treatment and monitoring services
for defendants who are released.
The duties of probation officers are pri-
marily listed in 18 U.S.C. § 3603, and include
instructing a person on supervision about
the conditions specified by the sentenc-
ing court; keeping informed, to the degree
required by the conditions specified by the
sentencing court, about the conduct and
condition of a person under supervision, and
using all suitable methods, not inconsistent
with the conditions specified by the court, to
aid a probationer or a person on supervised
release who is under supervision; and to
bring about improvements in the conduct
and condition of the person under supervi-
sion. Additionally, under 18 U.S.C. § 3552,
probation officers are tasked with preparing
presentence reports for the courts.
While the general policies and procedures
for the work of probation and pretrial services
officers are included in the Guide to Judiciary
Policy and various procedural manuals issued
by the AO, each district has wide latitude in
developing local policies and procedures gov-
erning how the work is performed.
The Director of the AO is charged with,
among other things:
* Investigating the work of probation and
pretrial services offices,

* Formulating general rules for the proper
conduct of the probation and pretrial ser-
vices work, and
* Endeavoring by all suitable means to pro-
mote the efficient administration of the
probation and pretrial services system and
the enforcement of the probation and pre-
trial services laws in all United States courts.1
Additionally, the Director, under the
supervision of the Conference, is charged
with developing budget requests and disburs-
ing funds.2 In ordinary times, this shared
governance ensures that (1) annual budget
requests reflect the branch's priorities based
on Judicial Conference policies and (2) key
decisions on staffing and budget utiliza-
tion are made at the local level, where chief
probation and pretrial services officers and
chief district judges are in the best position to
assess needs and deploy resources.
Supplemental Funding
In the early days of the pandemic, AO staff, on
behalf of the probation and pretrial services
system, performed a needs analysis to deter-
mine what additional costs might be incurred.
It was clear from the outset that there would
be disruptions to the delivery of treatment,
testing, and monitoring services. It was esti-
mated that there would be a shift in treatment
modalities-moving from in-person, group
sessions to more individual, remote (telemedi-
cine) sessions. Additionally, it was projected
that drug testing practices would change,

1 See e.g., 18 U.S.C. § 3154 and § 3672.
2 28 U.S.C. §§ 604-605.

June 2021


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