United States Courts
Western district of Missouri
Pretrial Orientation Program a Success
On Thursday, April 29, 2010, at the Whittaker U.S. Courthouse, the U.S. Probation and Pretrial Services Office hosted its first ever Pretrial Orientation Program. The idea for the program came about following the consolidation of the Probation and Pretrial Offices in January 2009, but the program itself was the culmination of months of hard work by staff from the Western District's Pretrial Unit, the Pretrial Unit from the District of Kansas and staff from the Federal Bureau of Prisons' (BOP) North Central Regional Office. The focus of the program was not only to prepare defendants on bond supervision and their family members for the eventuality of prison, but also to introduce them to the planning process of re-entry following release. Specifically, the program targeted those defendants who had been convicted and were either pending sentencing or voluntary surrender. There were nearly 70 defendants and their family members in attendance from both districts.
The hour and a half agenda included presentations about the presentence investigation process, pretrial issues, BOP issues, and ex-offenders discussing their experiences while in custody and on supervision. The presentations from ex-offenders had the greatest impact because the information came directly from individuals who had lived through the experience and were there to help others in the same situation. At the conclusion, the participants asked a number of questions, and informational handbooks addressing several topics and BOP procedures were distributed.
Overall, the new program provided a great deal of much needed information to attendees and their families, and a number of positive comments about the benefits of the program were received from the participants afterward. The program will be repeated every four months, with each district hosting it on a rotating basis. The next session will occur in the District of Kansas on Aug. 19. Organizers hope to link up with defendants and their families in the Springfield, Jefferson City, Wichita and Topeka offices via video conferencing technology at future sessions. A special acknowledgment goes out to the primary organizers of the program, Probation and Pretrial Officers Penney Hodges and Van Hecke. And the efforts of the following presenters are also greatly appreciated: Probation and Pretrial Officer Wes Garber; Probation and Pretrial Officers Trey Burton and Melissa Goldsmith (KS); Dr. Donald Denney, Regional Psychology Administrator for the Bureau of Prisons; and Assistant Warden James Henry from the U.S. Penitentiary at Leavenworth.