Probation officers spend their time monitoring and advising people who have been convicted of criminal offenses. For the most part, these offenders have been placed on probation or parole instead of having to serve their full sentence behind bars. The probation officers make sure that any probation and/or parole stipulations are being followed by the offenders. There are different types of probation officers, with some of them working only with juvenile offenders, some of them working with only with probationers, while others work only with people on parole.
The job description of probation officers varies from state to state, and it is also determined by the place of employment a person secures a job through. For example, the duties carried out by a juvenile probation officer will of course be somewhat different than those carried out by a probation officer who works with parolees.
Probation officers play a crucial role in helping criminal offenders stay out of jail. They provide resources to the offenders, ensuring that they have the assistance needed to live a clean and sober life as well as one in which no criminal offenses have to be committed. No matter the type of probation officer a person becomes, he or she is usually responsible for the following tasks:
- Monitoring offenders’ behavior
- Drug testing clients
- Carrying out substance abuse assessments
- Monitoring whether or not the offenders are working
- Assessing if parenting classes need to be taken
- Consulting family members of the offenders
- Creating reports on each offender
- Updating reports
- Appearing before judges to provide case updates
- Visiting the offenders’ homes and places of employment
To become a probation officer, a person will need top-notch communication skills as well as strong interpersonal skills. The person must be able to effectively deal with people of all socioeconomic backgrounds and people of all races. He or she must feel comfortable presenting information to the courts in regards to whether or not an offender should remain free or be sent to jail or prison.
How to Become a Probation Officer
To become this type of officer, a person will need at least a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice or some type of related field. Some places of employment may even mandate that an officer hold a master’s degree. Both types of degree programs tend to focus on the following topics:
- Social behavior
- Substance abuse
- Criminal justice processes
Juvenile Probation Officer: $52,000 a year
Probation/Parole Officer: $47,000 a year
Chief Probation Officer: $93,000 a year
Correctional Probation Officer: $23,000 a year
Probation officers tend to work long hours. Sometimes, they may make their last home visit as late as 8:00 pm. Also, if they receive a report that one of their clients is misbehaving, they have the right to show up at the client’s home at any time of day or night and enter without a search warrant. Furthermore, probation officers sometimes deal with offenders who have little or no personal hygiene. In some instances, the officers have to deal with offenders who have been convicted of murder, rape and other types of heinous crimes.