Probation Officer Careers in the UK and US
Overview of a career as a Probation / Parole Officer
The probation officer's main responsibility is to protect the public by encouraging ex-offenders not to commit new crimes while on parole or following release from prison. This involves addressing the ex-offenders' behaviour and ensuring that court orders are followed.
The probation officers counsel offenders prior to release, helping plan the steps they're going to take. They remain in touch with them and their families following release. They subsequently monitor the movements of offenders during their period on probation. The officer and ex-offender might meet at the probation officer's office, or at the person's home or place of work. Counselling sessions may also be part of the contact time, relating to personal issues such as anger management, or drug or alcohol misuse treatment.
Consequently, probation officers are in constant contact with police and prison personnel, social services, local authorities, health, education and housing departments. They also interact with independent and voluntary sector organisations, and sometimes the victims of crime as well. Most probation or parole officers are employed by the local or national government.
Duties of a Parole Officer
Probation Officer Careers are very varied and challenging. A probation officer spends a great deal of time researching and writing reports for the courts, and making recommendations on offenders regarding sentencing, imprisonment and parole in conjunction with other agencies. They suggest appropriate ways to deal with a particular offender, having interviewed both the subject and other relevant people, including their families. Risk assessments form a major part of the work.
The officer may be asked to testify in court as to their recommendations. Once an offender has been released, the probation officer may also have to update the court about the parolee's adherence to probation orders and success in reintegrating with the community.
During a typical week, a Parole Officers Duties could include:
- Interviewing offenders at court, in prison, in the workplace, in the probation office, or at home.
- Preparing and presenting reports to the courts.
- Writing reports and risk assessments to support decisions about parole for offenders.
- Preparing progress reports.
- Preparing supervision plans for ex-offenders in the community.
- Referring ex-offenders to other organisations.
- Interacting with other organisations such as the police, employment agencies, drug and alcohol misuse organisations and support groups, housing organisations, social services, etc.
- Conducting meetings with colleagues to assess cases.
- Attending court.
Would a Career As a Probation Officer / Parole Officer Suit You?
So, what is it like being a Parole Officer? The work can be stressful as it involves working closely with a wide range of people in often difficult circumstances. Some ex-offenders, family members and friends may be hostile, angry, upset or even violent. You therefore need to be able to communicate with and relate to a wide range of people. Maturity, responsibility and a high level of patience are vital. The capacity to empathise with ex-offenders and understand the personal pressures which led to offending is also important, as is the ability to gain the trust and confidence of others. All of this needs to be balanced with good judgement and the ability to view situations objectively.
Much of the report writing is completed to deadlines imposed by the courts. You need to be able to communicate clearly, especially when speaking in court, and to write clear, concise reports. The rest of the workload can be heavy, involving a large amount of travel and work in community locations. Officers may be on call 24-hours per day. Therefore, the ability to work accurately under pressure is critical.
Despite the difficulties, the work can be exceptionally rewarding, as working with ex-offenders can result in people becoming productive and well-adjusted members of the community. Entry to the probation services usually requires a basic knowledge of social sciences, including sociology, psychology and economics, plus an awareness of social service agencies and other community resources. A basic understanding of factors relating to crime is also beneficial.
Information about a Parole Officer's Salary and Prospects
Due to the complexity of this work, the majority of training is usually on the job, working with cases combined with private study. After this initial training, there is much scope for professional development in both general areas, such as management and administration, and in specialist areas, such as hostel or prison work. Promotional prospects are good and usually involve moves into management, resulting in the reduction of case work. Job growth is directly connected to public funding, and usually grows at an average rate.
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