Criminal Justice Degrees Guide

The Role of Probation Officers

For many individuals who have been convicted of a crime, probation officers are probably the bane of their existence: the people who keep them from leaving the city or state, checking up on them nearly every day.  However, probation officers are a necessary part of our criminal justice system and serve to help rehabilitate many offenders. 

There are different forms of punishment for criminals, each depending on the extent of their crime.  Deterrence, rehabilitation, retributivism, and denunciation are the four which criminal law focuses upon, each which are meant to better serve society.  Probation officers are part of rehabilitation which still punishes criminals by taking away some of their rights, but allows them the freedom to remain out of jail for misdemeanor crimes.  Additionally, many people on probation or parole have recently been released from jail, and need to be supervised by another form of criminal justice.  This can also overlap into deterrence, since other criminals may be deterred from committing the same offense if they know it will result in probation. 

Probation officers are necessary to ensure their offenders remain supervised by the law and behave themselves.  This is an important part of the criminal justice system because it requires the officer to remain committed to the offender and ensure that they do not commit another offense again.  While probation only lasts a short period, there is still a lasting effect that many criminals have as a result of probation which stays with them throughout their life.  Probation officers simply help with the transition from criminal back to citizen, allowing many offenders a second chance at life, rather than incarceration. 

Probation officers usually have to obtain a four-year degree from an accredited university, but many federal probation officers are required to have a graduate degree as well.  Probation officers have to be able to deal with many different types of situations, which encourages agencies to require vast experience by their officers before they are hired.  Some probation sentences can last many years, depending on the offense, requiring several probation officers which have to supervise the offender on a daily basis.  Most of the time, the offender has to report to the probation officer at least every other week for drug testing or a simple catch-up on their life and awareness of whether they have been following their probation terms.  These officers play an integral part in society by helping maintain the peace through their supervision.  Without probation officers, offenders would either be forced to remain incarcerated or be immediately thrust back onto society with no time in between to redevelop social skills.