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What does a Parole Officer do Differently from a Probation Officer?

what does a parole officer doParole officers and probation officers are often thought of as being the same thing; however, they are actually quite different. Although they perform many of the same functions, parole officers nonetheless have unique duties due to the type of clients they serve. What does a parole officer do differently than a probation officer? Here are a few things that are different.

Type of Clients

The biggest difference between probation and parole officers is the type of clients they are involved with. Probation officers deal with individuals who have been sentenced to probation rather than jail or prison time. On the other hand, parole officers deal with people who previously served prison time, but have since been released on “good behavior” and require monitoring.

Involvement in Sentencing

Parole officers sometimes work within the prison system to determine whether or not an offender is an ideal candidate for early release. As such, they may assist the parole board in making their decision by conducting interviews and preparing reports that will ultimately be used to assess an individual’s risk of re-offending. Some information that may be gathered includes:

  • Potential for employment
  • Familial makeup
  • Whether or not the inmate has suitable housing

Unlike parole officers, probation officers do not play a role in determining whether someone is sentenced to probation or receives jail time. The exception is whenever a probation violation occurs, in which case they may ask for the offender to serve time behind bars instead.

Preparing for Release

Parole officers play a vital role in ensuring parolees are prepared for their release. They may do this by helping the offender find employment, education, housing or community resources. On the other hand, probation officers do not usually provide this type of assistance, since their clients likely already have an adequate structure in place.

Role after Release

Once an offender is placed on parole, he or she will then be supervised carefully by a parole officer. A parole officer may:

  • Perform random home visits
  • Monitor the individual’s progress in getting or keeping a job
  • Perform random drug or alcohol screenings
  • Ensure the offender meets all the requirements of parole such as attending counseling, refraining from visiting the victim, etc.

This aspect of a parole officer’s job description is very much the same as that of a probation officer. The exception is that individuals on parole must typically be supervised more closely than those who are on probation do. Parole officers also face additional challenges in that parolees may have become “institutionalized”, and therefore have difficulty functioning in society. They are also more likely to handle violent offenders, since those convicted of violent crimes are more prone to serving prison time. The fact that a parole officer deals with more difficult clients means that his or her workload is likely to be much smaller than that of a probation officer as well.

Work Environment

Most city or county law enforcement agencies have their own probation department, which is where most probation officers work. Parole officers can work in a variety of settings, a few of which are:

  • Prisons
  • Local jails
  • Juvenile detention centers
  • Community corrections facilities
  • Law enforcement agencies
  • Independent offices
  • Government agencies

Incarcerated individuals may answer to one officer before appearing in front of a parole board, and then be assigned to another one once they are released. Those sentenced to probation will likely have the same probation officer during their entire sentence unless their case is transferred to another jurisdiction.

Parole officers play a very important role in rehabilitating offenders and reducing recidivism. To find out more about the requirements for becoming a parole officer, contact us.

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