Probation officers work with criminal offenders, some of whom may be dangerous. They also monitor offenders to prevent them from committing new crimes. Workers in this occupation must meet many court-imposed deadlines and also travel, especially if they work in rural areas. Probation officers usually have to have a bachelor’s degree, but the requirement varies by agency.
Officers who work in the probation system have various duties that keep their job busy. They evaluate offenders to determine the best course of treatment. They provide offenders with resources to aid in rehabilitation. Probation officers discuss treatment options and arrange those treatment programs for offenders. One of the main duties for a probation officer is to supervise offenders and monitor their progress.
They conduct meetings with offenders as well as their family and friends. Then the most boring part of their job is to write reports on the progress of offenders. Probation officers are also associated with correctional treatment specialists since they both are relatively the same occupation. Probation officers and correctional treatment specialists work with offenders who are given probation instead of jail time, who are still in prison, or who have been released from prison. There are several types of probation officers and correctional treatment specialists.
Probation officers, who are called community supervision officers in some states, supervise people who have been placed on probation. They work to ensure that the offender is not a danger to the community and to help in their rehabilitation. Probation officers write reports that detail each offender’s treatment plans and their progress since they were put on probation. Most probation officers work with either adults or juveniles. Only in small, mostly rural, jurisdictions do probation officers counsel both adults and juveniles.
Pretrial services officers investigate an offender’s background to determine if that offender can be safely allowed back into the community before his or her trial date. They must assess the risk and make a recommendation to a judge who decides on the appropriate sentencing or bond amount. When offenders are allowed back into the community, pretrial officers supervise them to make sure that they stay with the terms of their release and appear at their trials.
Parole officers work with people who have been released from jail and are serving parole to help them re-enter society. Parole officers monitor post-release offenders and provide them with various resources, such as substance abuse counseling or job training, to aid in their rehabilitation. By doing so, the officers try to change the offenders’ behavior and thus to reduce the risk of that person committing another crime and having to return to jail or prison.
Both probation and parole officers supervise offenders though personal contact with the offenders and their families. Probation and parole officers require regularly scheduled contact with offenders by telephone or through office visits, and they may also check on offenders at their homes or places of work. Probation and parole officers also oversee drug testing and electronic monitoring of offenders. In some states, officers do the jobs of both probation and parole officers.
Correctional treatment specialists, who also may be known as case managers or correctional counselors, counsel offenders and develop rehabilitation plans for them to follow when they are no longer in prison or on parole. They may evaluate inmates using questionnaires and psychological tests. They also work with inmates, probation officers, and staff of other agencies to develop parole and release plans.
For example, they may plan education and training programs to improve offenders’ job skills. Correctional treatment specialists write case reports that cover the inmate’s history and the likelihood that he or she will commit another crime. When their clients are eligible for release, the case reports are given to the appropriate parole board. The specialist may help set up counseling for the offenders and their families, find substance-abuse or mental health treatment options, aid in job placement, and find housing. Correctional treatment specialists also explain the terms and conditions of the prisoner’s release, write reports, and keep detailed written accounts of each offender’s progress. Specialists who work in parole and probation agencies have many of the same duties as their counterparts in correctional institutions.
The number of cases a probation officer or correctional treatment specialist handles at one time depends on the need of offenders and the risks associated with each individual. Higher risk offenders usually command more of the officer’s time and resources. The caseload size also varies by agency. Technological advancements, such as, improved tests for screening drug use, electronic devices to monitor clients, and kiosks that allow clients to check in remotely, help probation officers and correctional treatment specialists supervise and counsel offenders.
Probation officers and correctional treatment specialists must meet many court-imposed deadlines, which contribute to heavy workloads and extensive paperwork. Many officers travel to do home and employment checks and property searches, especially in rural areas. Because of the hostile environments probation officers may encounter, some must carry a firearm or other weapon for protection. All of these factors, as well as the frustration some officers and specialists feel in dealing with offenders who violate the terms of their release, contribute to a stressful work environment. Although the high stress levels make the job difficult at times, this work also can be rewarding.
Many officers and specialists receive personal satisfaction from counseling members of their community and helping them become productive citizens. Although many officers and specialists work full time, the demands of the job often lead to their working much longer hours. For example, many agencies rotate an on-call officer position. When these workers are on-call, they must respond to any issues with offenders of law enforcement 24 hours a day. Extensive travel and paperwork can also contribute to their having to work longer hours.
A bachelor’s degree in social work, criminal justice, psychology, or a related field is usually required. Some employers require a master’s degree in a related field for candidates who do not have previous related work experience. Although job requirements may vary, related work may include work in probation, pretrial services, parole, corrections, criminal investigations, substance abuse treatment, social work, or counseling.
Work in any of these fields is typically considered a plus in the hiring process. Most probation officers and correctional treatment specialists must complete a training program sponsored by their state government or the federal government, after which they may have to pass a certification test. In addition, they may be required to work as trainees or on a probationary period for up to one year before being offered a permanent position. Some probation officers go on to specialize in a certain type of casework. For example, an officer may work only with domestic violence offenders or deal only with substance-abuse cases. Officers receive training specific to the group that they are working with so that they are better prepared to help that type of offender.
Most agencies require applicants to be at least 21 years old and, for federal employment, not older than 37 years of age. In addition, most departments require candidates to have a record free of felony convictions and to submit to drug testing and a valid driver’s license is often required. Being a probation officer or a correctional treatment specialist is a very important job for the justice department because some of the offenders who are returning to civilian life need help adjusting back from the prison life that they had been accustomed to for so long. Also, a probation officer is needed for the offenders who are not quite bad enough to be put in jail or prison.
They just need to have an eye kept on them to prevent them from committing another violation or commit a more serious crime. Even though probation officers have offenders to monitor, they also have a ton of paperwork to record and keep for the offenders file. The officers have to be perceptive in noticing minor details in the offender’s behavior and overall attitude toward the situation they are in. Probation officers are a key asset for the courts to use and without them the justice system would not be able to function because the judges would have no other option than to send the offenders to jail or prison and that would overpopulate the already overpopulated jail and prisons.
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