The investigative and supervisory functions of probation both exist to support a single goal, making sure that criminals do not re-offend. However, without adequate forms of rehabilitation, the probation system simply feeds past offenders back into prisons.
As mentioned in the excellent discussion by Bohemianteacher4u, the more closely supervision and investigation are integrated, the more likely it is that parole officers can discover when criminals are running into difficulties, making a timely intervention more probable. Especially in cases where addictions play a major part in criminal behavior, constant monitoring to ensure that the addict has the means to follow a program of rehabilitation (such as access to transportation, support programs within the criminal's own faith traditions) should be part of both supervisory and investigative functions.
The most important organizational strategy is to build close links between individual parole officers and the people for whom the officer is responsible, and ensuring that case loads are low enough so parole officers have time to review each parolee's case in detail, and see warning flags.
The sentencing practices of the courts include the use of probation as a means of supervising criminals who have committed various crimes or have been discharged from prison with a remaining sentencing period. Probation provides a means for control over offenders and allows the offenders to reside in the community instead of incarceration. Prison overcrowding has led to an increase of offenders on probation, resulting in overcrowded caseloads for probation officers. Overcrowding has affected the level of supervision practices because probation officers have been spread thin with high caseloads.
Offenders on probation are given specific days when they are expected to report to their probation officer. During the probation period, an offender may be tested for drug or alcohol use and if identified as using, may be put in jail or even returned to prison. Probation officers make home visits and onsite work visits to offender’s homes and workplaces. Other terms of probation include working a job and paying fines.
The success of probation is often questioned because of the high rate of people returning to crime. However, some studies support the success of probation for certain types of criminals. Intermediate sanction is a type of probation that does not require the high level of probation that some offenders are sentenced to by the courts. The person may be sentenced to community service activities or pay fines regularly. In-house monitoring can be provided by having a person wear an electronic ankle bracelet that alerts the probation officer if an offender has left his or her allowed zone. In some cases, a person on probation only makes a monthly phone call to his supervisor. Organizing the supervisory functions of probation can be difficult.
Probation officers are usually assigned a caseload of offenders to monitor. If the person does not attend his or her scheduled appointment, the probation officer is expected to determine why the person has not appeared. The probation officer has the responsibility of alerting the police to pick-up an offender. One of the best methods to supervise offenders today is the use of electronic devices. One of the problems associated with probation is that a person can commit a crime, and the probation officer may not know until the person is caught. People have committed murder while on probation.
One of the more effective methods used in supervision is the use of the CPU engaged personnel supervisory system (PSS). The system includes all of the information about the parolee. When a parolee calls a toll free number the system logs in the location from where the parolee called and the time of the call. The system does not allow the parolee to call in twice during the same designated period to prevent him or her from making a call and skipping the next call during the assigned period. The system can provide a reduction of direct monitoring by probation officers because it can alert officers of failed calls and assists in monitoring.