Roles of parole officers have been described in simple terms as "cop" versus "social worker."Why are these roles actually more complex than this?
The roles are complex as parole officers often operate in both roles simultaneously. For instance, when a juvenile is paroled and is ordered to complete certain requirements to avoid incarceration - 1) must attend school and obtain credits to graduate, 2) must not commit any additional crimes, 3) must stay clear of drugs and alcohol, 4) must refrain from any gang affiliation. The parole officer or probation officer (depending on which state you reside) must assure that all of the above requirements are being completed. In order to make sure that the juvenile completes his program the officer must make home visits, phone calls, interviews with the juvenile, his family, school faculty. His first main objective is to encourage the young person to complete his requirements. If he sees that the young offender is not able to maintain sobriety or complete school he must find appropriate social programs that will enable the juvenile to be successful. Often a probation officer will make referrals to the mental health facility in the area, help with employment or make referrals for the family to social services. Often parole officers make home visits or school visits to check on the welfare of the youth.
The parole officer's primary job is that of a social worker, educator, counselor and advocate. Secondary to that, is the responsibility of the officer to maintain accountability to the court and to ensure that the offender is keeping his court-ordered responsibilities and does not jeopardize the safety of the community. The officer must also maintain his official capacity as enforcer and will when necessary recommend that the offender's parole status be revoked. It is a constant balancing act between helping the offender and upholding the sanctity of the law and safety of the community.