On the Job
Probation officers help legal offenders become productive in the community.
A man named John Augustus is considered the "Father of Probation." He lived in Boston during the early part of the 19th century and was a boot-maker. Augustus also abstained from drinking any alcohol, and believed that he could help people who drank too much. He didn't believe in jailing alcohol abusers, though. Instead, Augustus believed in rehabilitation. In 1841, Augustus attended a court session to bail out a man arrested for being a "drunkard." The judge ordered this man to come back to court in three weeks. The man returned to court on time, sober, and well-kempt. People were shocked and pleased at the man's transformation under Augustus' supervision. For the next 18 years, Augustus worked as a volunteer probation officer. He worked with many kinds of offenders and his work in this area is credited as the beginning of modern probation.Probation officers assist offenders who are sentenced to probation. They provide services to offenders and their families and help prevent future crimes. Parole officers supervise offenders who have been released from prison on parole. In some states, parole and probation officers share duties. Correctional treatment specialists counsel offenders in jail. They also help them plan for their release. The goal of probation officers, parole officers, and correctional treatment specialists is to help their clients return to law-abiding lives.
Probation officers are also called community supervision officers. They develop rehabilitation plans for their clients. To do this, they talk to judges and lawyers to learn about the offenders' problems. They talk to family members to find out family and individual needs. When they meet with their clients, they inform them of the conditions of their probation. For example, clients usually are required to have regular meetings with their probation officers. Sometimes they must make payments to the victims of their crimes. They often must work or attend school. Probation officers usually work with either juveniles or adults.
Probation officers also arrange for services for their clients. They help them find jobs or housing. They also help them obtain medical care or counseling. They may also help them enroll in school. Probation officers also assist their clients with minor legal difficulties. In addition, they provide guidance about problems in daily living. Probation officers must be aware of community resources so they can make useful referrals.
Probation officers determine if their clients are making social progress and following the conditions of their probation. To do this, they conduct regular interviews with their clients. They may also talk to family members or employers. If probation officers suspect violations or criminal behavior, they investigate them. They may observe or search their clients, or require them to have drug tests. Sometimes probation officers recommend that offenders go to jail. They must prepare reports on their clients and maintain case files.
The following list of occupational tasks is specific to this career.
- Make recommendations to court or parole board when terms of probation are not followed.
- Conduct follow-up interviews to determine needs, problems, and social progress.
- Prepare reports and maintain case folders for all assigned clients.
- Write reports about clients' progress.
- Supervise offenders, including people on electronically-monitored home detention.
- Inform offenders of the requirements of their releases, such as office visits or payments to victims.
- Determine if inmates are suitable for parole.
- Provide guidance and counseling.
- Investigate suspected parole or probation violations or criminal behavior.
- Testify in court about offenders' backgrounds.
- Recommend where to place offender.
- Confer with clients' families to identify needs and problems.
- Develop plans and recommendations for offenders before their release.
- Develop relationships with other parole officers and community agencies.
- Arrange for services, such as employment and housing. Assist offenders in obtaining help.
- Help offenders with community service sentences find jobs.
- Create information packets for inmates and offenders.
People in this career perform the following list of tasks, but the tasks are common to many occupations.
- Get information needed to do the job.
- Document and record information.
- Use computers.
- Make decisions and solve problems.
- Communicate with supervisors, peers, or subordinates.
- Identify objects, actions, and events.
- Organize, plan, and prioritize work.
- Evaluate information against standards.
- Establish and maintain relationships.
- Communicate with people from outside the organization.
- Work with the public.
- Resolve conflicts and negotiate with others.
- Develop goals and strategies.
- Update and use job-related knowledge.
- Process information.
- Explain the meaning of information to others.
- Judge the value of objects, services, or people.
- Schedule work and activities.
- Think creatively.
- Analyze data or information.
In a typical work setting, people in this career:
- Are placed in conflict situations with angry or discourteous offenders on a daily basis.
- Have a high level of social contact. They work closely with offenders, attorneys, judges, and parole boards.
- Deal with physically aggressive or violent offenders on a daily basis.
- Are indirectly responsible for the public's safety. They are responsible for preventing their clients from committing future crimes.
- Are somewhat responsible for work outcomes.
- Communicate with clients and coworkers daily by telephone or in person.
- Write letters and memos on a daily basis.
- Often communicate with clients and coworkers by e-mail.
- Work in a group or as part of a team.
- Almost always work indoors, but also work outdoors to visit or monitor clients.
- Are exposed to diseases and infections on a daily basis. They may supervise clients who are ill.
- Almost always use a vehicle to visit or monitor clients.
- Sometimes are exposed to contaminants.
- Work near other people, but usually have a few feet of space separating them from others.
- Must be very exact in performing the job. Errors could seriously endanger public safety.
- Repeat the same tasks over and over, such as visiting clients.
- Make decisions on a daily basis that strongly impact clients. They can make most decisions without consulting with a supervisor.
- Are usually able to set most tasks for the day without talking to a supervisor. This is because they do many of the same tasks with each client.
- Must meet strict deadlines on a daily basis.
- Work in a moderately competitive atmosphere.
- Usually work a regular 40-hour week.
- May be on-call 24 hours a day.
- May travel to visit clients. The amount of travel and field work depends on the assignment and the work location.
Physical Work Conditions
In a typical work setting, people in this career:
- Sit for long periods of time.
- Understand the speech of another person.
- Speak clearly so listeners can understand.
- See details of objects that are less than a few feet away.
- See details of objects that are more than a few feet away.
- Make quick, precise adjustments to machine controls.
- Choose quickly and correctly among various movements when responding to different signals.
- Coordinate movement of several parts of the body, such as arms and legs, while the body is moving.
- React quickly using hands, fingers, or feet.
- Be physically active for long periods without getting tired or out of breath.
- Use stomach and lower back muscles to support the body for long periods without getting tired.
- Focus on one source of sound and ignore others.
People in this career frequently:
It is important for people in this career to be able to:
It is not as important, but still necessary, for people in this career to be able to:
Source: Minnesota Department of Education.