The federal judiciary is comprised of 94 districts nationwide, which are divided into 11 circuits. The District of South Dakota in part of the Eighth Circuit and covers the entire state of South Dakota. The Probation and Pretrial Services Office in the U.S. District Court, District of South Dakota (hereafter Office), is a combined (both pretrial and probation) district with headquarters in Sioux Falls. There are divisional offices in Rapid City, Pierre, and Aberdeen, with satellite offices in Kyle (on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation), Mission (on the Rosebud Indian Reservation), and Timber Lake (on the Cheyenne River Indian Reservation).
The U.S. Probation Office plays an integral role in the administration of justice and serves as the community corrections arm of the Federal Court system.
There are five major functions performed by probation and pretrial services offices at various stages of the justice process:
- Prior to prosecution and only at the request of the U.S. Attorney’s office, the probation and pretrial services office submits reports to the U.S. Attorney’s office on a person’s suitability for supervision and subsequently supervises persons approved by the U.S. Attorney’s office to be diverted from formal prosecution pursuant to an established pretrial diversion agreement.
- After charges have been filed, the probation and pretrial services office investigates persons who have been charged and submits a bail report to the court on each person. The reports provide information to the court about what, if any, conditions are necessary for the person to remain free during the pretrial phase based on the assessed likelihood the person will appear as directed by the court and does not pose a danger to another person or the community.
- After bail decisions, the probation and pretrial services office supervises defendants during the pretrial phase as directed by the court.
- After a person has been convicted of a crime and prior to sentencing, the probation and pretrial services office investigates the person and submits a presentence report to the court to assist the court in crafting the most appropriate sentence.
- After sentencing when a person is allowed to remain in the community or is returning to the community, the probation and pretrial services office supervises the person for the duration of time specified by U.S. district court order or by the paroling authorities.
Overarching the duties and functions of each probation and pretrial services office is the primary mission to provide the best information to the court to aid in the administration of justice and to employ evidence-based and best practices to reduce re-offending behaviors and the harm caused by those re-offending.
Employing methods which have been demonstrated to be effective by empirical research is essential to achieving the best possible probation and pretrial services outcomes. Evidence-based practice is the application of the body of research and replicable knowledge that describes contemporary correctional assessment, programming and supervision strategies that lead to improved correctional outcomes. (see http://static.nicic.gov/Library/024107.pdf)As the scientific evidence about correctional practices continues to build and enlighten, the probation offices will adjust its practices to align with the empirical knowledge.