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The Role of CSOs in the Investigations, Diagnostics, and Evaluation Resources Branch (IDERB)

Submitted By CSO John P. Taberski
(CSOSA Newslink, August 2003)

The role of the Community Supervision Officer (CSO) in the Investigations, Diagnostics, and Evaluation Resources Branch (IDERB) is a unique function within the many services offered by CSOSA. The primary function of a CSO within this branch is to conduct in-depth investigations of offenders pending sentencing at D.C. Superior Court for felony and misdemeanor crimes. The findings of the CSOs' investigations are presented in Pre-Sentence Investigation Reports (PSIs), which include sentencing recommendations tailored to the needs of each offender. These sentencing recommendations are made by CSOs with the objective of providing effective intervention plans to reduce the likelihood of recidivism, thus increasing public safety.

Diagnostic CSOs perform a myriad of tasks throughout an investigation. The theme of this year's Community Supervision Officer Recognition Week, "CSOs Wear Many Hats," is a perfect description of the work that IDERB's dedicated officers perform on a daily basis. They are liaisons between CSOSA and several other criminal justice agencies. They are fact-finders and interpreters of facts. They are storytellers who create accurate accounts of the lives of convicted criminals. They are counselors. But most importantly, they are community servants who work diligently to help CSOSA achieve its mission.

One of the initial steps in an IDERB investigation involves close collaboration with the Assistant United States Attorney (AUSA) assigned to the case. In contacting the AUSA, the CSO develops a full understanding of the facts and circumstances surrounding the offense that the offender committed. Contact with offenders' attorneys, many of whom work for the Public Defender Service, often provides a CSO the opportunity to obtain initial biographical information about an offender prior to conducting an interview.

Perhaps the most important component of the PSI is the offender interview. CSOs interview offenders at correctional facilities, treatment sites, and in the office. Since it is vital to provide a complete picture of the offender in a Pre-Sentence Report, it is important for a CSO to possess investigative interviewing skills and the ability to elicit accurate information from each offender. CSOs often provide the Court and attorneys, as well as other partners in law enforcement, information that had not previously been disclosed about an offender. This type of information is most valuable to judges, who ultimately decide what is best for both the community and the offender. A comprehensive Pre-Sentence Report also provides CSOs in supervision offices a clear picture of the individual they will be monitoring in the community.

CSOs conduct PSIs on all types of offenders who have committed a variety of offenses involving illicit drug use and sales, theft, violence, and even murder. There is, however, a specialized unit for sex offenders. Diagnostic CSOs also help offenders who desire to adopt productive lifestyles, through recommending intervention plans based on their individual needs.

Another important responsibility of Diagnostic CSOs, that you may not be aware of, is providing a voice for victims of violent crime and their families. CSOs often work closely with victim advocates to assist victims in making Victim Impact Statements, which are also included in the Pre-Sentence Investigation Report. Providing the judge with a complete narrative of how people's lives have been affected by a crime is a crucial part of the sentencing phase.

Working with people throughout the community is imperative to Diagnostic CSOs. After obtaining information from offenders during pre-sentence interviews, contact is made with their family members, employers, acquaintances, treatment providers, and other members of the criminal justice system in this and other jurisdictions. Verifying information disclosed by offenders, as well as obtaining further information about them, assists members of the criminal justice system who work together to protect the community.

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