A good character witness statement first identifies you as an impartial witness. It explains how you know the person and why your knowledge of his character makes your recommendation reliable. When you're addressing a legal authority, frankly acknowledge the problem that caused the person's arrest and conclude with your positive appraisal of his future conduct.
Why Your Opinion Matters
Whether you're addressing a court of a law, a parole board or a housing co-op board, the first thing you need to establish is who you are and why your reader should believe your opinions.
Let's say you're writing to a probation officer in support of a former employee's application for early release on a misdemeanor charge of public drunkenness. You might begin along these lines: I'm John Doe, a resident of San Francisco for 17 years, where I own and manage my own small business [name], a recording studio at [location]. In the course of running my business, I've hired dozens of young persons in entry level positions, either managing the front desk or serving as recording-engineer assistants. I keep close tabs on these employees. Most are at the beginning of their work lives, and they need supervision, instruction and ongoing monitoring.
Establish That You're a Good and Impartial Judge of Character
Next convince your readers that have been an impartial observer of the person's character over a long period of time. You might write something like this: In my capacity as his employer, I oversaw John Doe's work on a daily basis for more than two years. His duties varied. In the course of a shift, John would work setting up microphones, which requires carefully and accurately following instructions. At other times, he managed the front desk and answered phones, both tasks that require active listening, consistently polite behavior and tact. Another job for second engineers is fetching coffee and food. It's not the most popular task, and some of my younger employees did it grudgingly. John, however, was always willing and even enthusiastic.
Tell the Story
Explain how John did performed his tasks well. Emphasize such traits as consistency, reliability and willingness to follow directions. For example: John never missed shifts, showed up on time and performed his various tasks in ways that made him one of my best employees. Many clients complimented me about his work.
Tell the Truth
When you're giving a character reference in the context of law enforcement or legal proceedings, it's obvious that your subject isn't perfect. Don't try to hide that fact. Acknowledge it fully then, as best you can, give your readers a realistic appraisal for better conduct in the future. For example, the person is having a probation hearing following incarceration for public drunkenness. You might write on his behalf: I understand the reason I'm writing you is because John was found guilty of public drunkenness. In one way, this surprised me because I never saw him show up for work when he wasn't completely sober. But there were a couple of social occasions where I saw that he'd had too much to drink. I've talked with both John and his wife about his arrest and his sobriety. I'm pleased to learn he's entered a twelve-step program. Everything I know about him tells me that his recovery from alcoholism will continue. I'd would definitely hire him again.
Conclude by inviting your reader to contact you directly for more information.