Probation Officer Career
The law enforcement agency contains different branches such as the local and state police. Federal agencies such as the Drug Enforcement Administration and the Federal Bureau Investigation (FBI) also fall under this umbrella. Probation officers work alongside other law enforcers in promoting the safety of prisoners on probation and maintaining the peaceful nature of the community. Probation officers work with law enforcement through the supervision of sentenced offenders serving probation time instead of being imprisoned.
While probation of officer is different from a parole officer or a correctional specialist, their duties are almost the same. Probation officers are required to supervise the individuals placed on probation as authorized by the court. They usually report to correctional treatment specialists or the court depending on the compliance of the offender. Their duties are usually focused at preventing offenders who have been sentenced from returning to their old habits or bad behavior. This approach reduces repetition rates of the offenses that the lawbreakers committed. Probation officers have been associated with criminal recidivism and the provision of a system that supports offenders who are willing to change (Andersen & Wildeman, 2015). The probation officers meet with the offender on a daily basis to review their progress in the community work they were assigned to, discuss other probation requirements needed to be fulfilled within the probation period, and screen the offender for drug or alcohol use. They secure documentation and make a recommendation to the judge regarding the outcome of the probation (Correctional Officer. Org, 2014). They also prepare discharges after the end of the probation period.
Probation officers conduct investigations relating to an offender’s personal history and background information to determine whether they have been involved in other criminal activities before. They review such cases on a regular basis to promote compliance and determine effective follow-up methods to use (Correctional Officer. Org, 2014). They report any misbehaviors to their supervisor and work collaboratively in determining the best approach to resolve the issue. They also collaborate with neighborhood associations and community religious groups to determine the available community projects that the offenders can be involved in and to check on them even after they finish serving their time. Probation officers are tasked with report writing responsibilities for all their cases. The reports usually include details of the offender, their families, the activities they have participated in, and their performance (Clear, Cole, Reisig, & Petrosino, 2014). Probation officers also identify different tools for handling resistance from the offenders such as counseling them about the importance of behavior change.
Although the probation officer career can prove rewarding through the opportunity to help people transform their lives and financial compensation, it can be stressful and dangerous as some offenders might be violent. Some of the skills essential for this career include being able to deal with stressful situations as some offenders might wish to evade the community work assigned to them. Probation officers should be assertive, open-minded, integrity, teamwork skills, and mature. Lack of self-confidence can make probation officers ineffective in their duties while being open-minded enables them to expect any kind of behavior from the convicts. Probation officers are involved in continued communication with the court, their supervisors, and the offenders. Effective interpersonal communication enables them to interact with the offenders and influence positive behavior change. Both oral and written communication skills are essential. The court can only entrust probation officers with the responsibility of monitoring offenders if they can trust them (Correctional Officer. Org, 2014). As such, integrity and maturity are essential skills among probation officers.
Aside from good moral characteristics other minimal requirements for the probation officer role includes being a US citizen and less than 37 years old, possessing relevant educational training, passing both written examination, endurance test, and different capability evaluation tests. Individuals with past criminal records are automatically disqualified as applicants. Most of the hiring agencies prefer candidates who are physically fit and who do not have chronic illnesses that could pose a danger to their health during training and while conducting their duties. Individuals with poor eyesight, hearing problems or those who are unable to walk or stand for prolonged periods are usually discouraged from applying for this position (Correctional Officer. Org, 2014). Background investigations conducted on the applications is an essential determinant of the individual’s ability to perform their intended role effectively.
As most agencies prefer hiring candidates with appropriate educational qualifications, a bachelor’s degree from an accredited college is required. Individuals with degrees in relevant fields usually have a better chance of being hired. Some of the relevant degree programs associated with the probation officer career include psychology, criminology, social work and sociology, disaster management and human relations, behavioral psychology, and those related to public administration. Aside from these, other foundation courses include criminal or constitutional law, ethics, rehabilitative and counseling studies, and other justice-related studies. The educational qualifications are usually focused on preparing probation officers for the role of handling different offenders, understanding the negative aspects of a crime committed and learning how to deal with diverse populations (Correctional Officer. Org, 2014). Psychological and behavioral sciences education enables probation officers to predict the actions of an offender and their likelihood to change.
Organizations such as the American Probation and Parole Association (APPA) have come up with several online training courses, conferences, and certification processes for probation officers. States such as Illinois have developed a certification, the Certified Criminal Justice Professional, for individuals interested in such careers. Other organizations such as the American Correctional Association (ACA) have also participated in the development of training standards for these careers (Hanser, 2009). These training opportunities ensure that probation officers are well equipped to handle offenders.
Typical Hiring Process
The hiring process for probation officers involves three steps. The first step entails applying for the available positions. Hiring agencies usually look out for the skills and educational qualifications of the applicants. This process also entails going through a proficiency test and an oral examination provided by the agency’s interview panel. An in-service training provided to successful candidates usually follows this step. The training lasts for approximately 12 months. The pre-employed candidates are familiarized with government policies, court routines, the benefits they will get, report writing approaches, defensive tactics and how to handle firearms, and other safety requirements (Correctional Officer. Org, 2014). Aside from that, they are also taught how to administer first aid and handle probationers who abscond their probation.
During the last step, the candidates are sworn in and vested with law enforcement powers against offenders who violate probation rules and the law. Those who are not sworn in but underwent the training are usually reserved for voluntary programs. However, they are not allowed to arrest offenders on their own. This exception is made because sworn-in probation officers undergo rigorous training.
Probation officers are essential in law enforcement as they promote behavior change among individuals exempted from jail term sentence. They supervise offenders and work alongside other community correctional specialists. The educational requirements for probation officers focus on justice studies, criminal law, and behavioral psychology as it is essential for probation officers to understand the nature of offenders and determine ways of dealing with them. There is a need for more states to come up with organizations that develop certification programs for individuals interested in becoming parole officers.
Andersen, L. H., & Wildeman, C. (2015). Measuring the effects of probation and parole officers on labor market outcomes and recidivism. Journal of Quantitative Criminology, 31(4), 629-652. Retrieved from https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s10940-014-9243-4.
Clear, T. R., Cole, G. F., Reisig, M. D., & Petrosino, C. (2014). American Corrections in Brief. Cengage Learning.
Correctional Officer. Org. (2014). Probation Officer. Retrieved from Correctional Officer. Org: https://www.correctionalofficer.org/career/probation-officer
Hanser, R. D. (2009). Community Corrections. SAGE.