In this paper, it is demonstrated that extralegal factors have minimal influence upon the sentencing recommendations contained in probation presentence reports. Probation officers who present these reports primarily consider the legally relevant variables of present offense and prior criminal record when deciding upon a recommendation. Drawing upon ethnographic and interview data, stages in a presentence investigation are identified and analyzed. It is shown that early in the investigation probation officers, using a legalistic perspective, place defendants into types that reflect eventual sentencing recommendations. Although extralegal data such as defendant attitudes and social history subsequently are collected and included in the presentence report, this information is often structured by probation officers to legitimate their own initial legalistic typing.
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