What Probation Officers and Correctional Treatment Specialists Do
About this section
Correctional treatment specialists counsel law offenders and create rehabilitation plans for them to follow when they are no longer in prison.
Probation officers and correctional treatment specialists assist in rehabilitating law offenders in custody or on probation or parole.
Probation officers and correctional treatment specialists typically do the following:
- Interview probationers and parolees, their friends, and their relatives in an office or at a residence to assess progress
- Evaluate probationers and parolees to determine the best course of rehabilitation
- Connect probationers and parolees with resources, such as job training
- Test clients for drugs and, if necessary, offer substance abuse counseling
- Complete prehearing investigations and testify in court or before parole boards regarding clients’ backgrounds and progress
- Write reports and maintain case files on clients
Probation officers and correctional treatment specialists supervise and counsel probationers or parolees, overseeing their clients’ actions in a variety of ways. For example, they may use electronic monitoring to track a client’s movement in the community.
The number of cases a probation officer or correctional treatment specialist handles at one time depends on each individual’s needs and associated risks. Higher risk clients usually command more of an officer’s time and resources. Caseload also varies by agency.
The following are examples of types of probation officers and correctional treatment specialists:
Probation officers supervise people who have been placed on probation instead of sent to prison. These workers ensure that probationers are not a danger to the community and help in their rehabilitation by visiting frequently. Probation officers write reports that detail each probationer’s treatment plan and progress since being put on probation. Most work exclusively with either adults or juveniles.
Parole officers work with people who have been released from prison and are serving parole, helping them re-enter society. Parole officers monitor postrelease parolees and provide them with information on various resources, such as substance abuse counseling or job training, to aid in their rehabilitation. By doing so, the officers try to change the parolee’s behavior and thus reduce the risk of that person committing another crime and having to return to prison.
Both probation and parole officers supervise probationers and parolees through personal contact with them and their families (also known as community supervision). These officers require parolees and probationers to keep in contact regularly by scheduling either telephone calls or office visits. They also check on them at their homes or places of work, taking into account the safety of the neighborhood. Probation and parole officers note mental health considerations and oversee drug testing and electronic monitoring of those under supervision. In some states, workers perform the duties of both probation and parole officers.
Pretrial services officers investigate a defendant’s background to determine whether they can be safely allowed back into the community before their trial date. Officers must assess the risk and make a recommendation to a judge, who decides on the appropriate sentencing (in settled cases with no trial) or bond amount. When pretrial defendants are allowed back into the community, pretrial officers supervise them to make sure that they stay within the terms of their release and appear at their trials.
Correctional treatment specialists, also known as case managers or correctional counselors, advise probationers and parolees and develop rehabilitation plans for them to follow. They may evaluate inmates using questionnaires and psychological tests. They also work with inmates, parole officers, and staff of other agencies to develop parole and release plans. For example, they may plan education and training programs to improve probationers’ 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 inmates are eligible for release, the case reports are given to the appropriate parole board. The specialist may help set up counseling for the parolees 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 inmate’s release and keep detailed written accounts of each parolee’s progress.