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First Amendment Library:
Eric R. Glitzenstein


Respondents in this case are prison inmates who sued under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), 5 U. S. C. § 552, for disclosure of their presentence investigation reports. These reports are prepared by a probation officer for use by the district court at sentencing; they contain background information about a defendant and the circumstances of his offense. After sentencing, the reports are typically transmitted to the Bureau of Prisons and then to the Parole Commission for eventual use in determining whether a prisoner should be released on parole. The courts below ordered petitioners — the Department of Justice and the Parole Commission — to disclose the reports. The question we are now called on to decide is whether the FOIA requires that these presentence investigation reports be disclosed by petitioners or whether the reports fall under one of the FOIA's statutory exemptions.