The Probation Officers Advisory Group's survey provides valuable insights into plea bargaining practices under the federal guidelines. Probation officers play a crucial role in guideline sentencing, and their views on the plea bargaining process are significant both because of their proximity to that process and the influence they wield with judges. The survey responses thus deserve attention and may spark lively debate within the Sentencing Commission and elsewhere. Depending on one's perspective, the picture that emerges is of plea bargaining either as a safety valve to mitigate the harshness and rigidity of the guidelines, or an unregulated process that threatens the guidelines' gains in reducing unwarranted disparity.
David Yellen, Probation Officers Look at Plea Bargaining, and Do Not Like What They See, 8 Sent'g Rep. 339 (1996).
Assessing the Probation Officers' Survey: Does Fact Bargaining Undermine the Sentencing Guidelines: Reexamining Probation's Perspective