The role of parole officers have been described in simple terms as "cop" versus "social worker." Why are these roles actually more complex than this?
None of these three roles is simple; as I volunteer as a crisis counselor in a jail and have taught in corrections, cop, social worker and parole officer are all complex jobs. In very simplified descriptions of these jobs, a cop serving in the community has to be concerned with the law , whether the behavior observed is worth a warning, arrest, or a visit to the detox center, and puts the public safety above their own. A social worker has to be concerned with the offender, the family, the family dynamics and the safety and welfare of the family. A parole officer has to have a foot in both worlds to a far greater extent though all three roles require the judgment of King Solomon at times. A parole officer has to keep track of the offenders assigned which are often way too many, whether the offender is following the release plan given, whether the parolee is staying within the boundaries of the law, whether they are checking in with the parole officer the correct days and times, whether the family is functioning with the parolee back in the household as well as making sure the public is safe. These three roles are complex, underpaid, overworked and often not appreciated for the work they do to help people on the edge succeed, yet keep the public safe.