probation officer | Definition

Doc's CJ Glossary by Adam J. McKee


Course: Introduction / Corrections

A probation officer is responsible for supervising those convicts granted probation, as well as conducting presentence investigations and preparing presentence reports.

At the federal level, these are officers of the probation office of a court.

Probation officers play a critical role in the criminal justice system, serving as a liaison between the court, the offender, and the community. They are responsible for supervising individuals who have been placed on probation, which is a form of community supervision that allows offenders to remain in the community instead of serving time in jail or prison.

Probation officers are typically employed by state or local governments and work in probation or parole departments. They are trained in criminal justice, social work, and counseling and often hold a bachelor’s or master’s degree in a related field.

One of the primary responsibilities of a probation officer is to ensure that offenders comply with the conditions of their probation. This may include regular reporting to the probation officer, attending counseling or treatment programs, submitting to drug tests, or completing community service. Probation officers must also monitor the offender’s compliance with any court-ordered conditions, such as paying restitution or avoiding contact with certain individuals.

In addition to supervising probationers, probation officers are responsible for conducting presentence investigations and preparing presentence reports. These reports provide the court with information about the offender’s background, criminal history, and the circumstances surrounding the current offense. The probation officer may interview the offender, their family members, and other individuals who can provide relevant information. The presentence report may also include recommendations for sentencing, such as community supervision or incarceration.

Probation officers must also assess the offender’s risk of reoffending and their level of rehabilitation needs. Based on this assessment, the probation officer may refer the offender to programs or services to address their needs and reduce the risk of future criminal behavior. This may include substance abuse treatment, mental health counseling, or job training programs.

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Last Modified: 04/07/2023


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