Many people who are convicted of crimes are placed on probation, instead of being sent to prison. People who have served time in prison are often released on parole. During probation and parole—and while they are in prison—offenders must stay out of trouble and meet other requirements. Probation officers and correctional treatment specialists work with and monitor offenders to prevent them from committing new crimes.
Probation officers and correctional treatment specialists typically do the following:
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. The following are 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 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 patrol 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 needs of offenders and the risks associated with each individual. Higher risk offenders usually command more of the officer's time and resources. 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.
Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2012-13 Edition