The traditional dual roles of parole officers have been described in simple terms as "cop" versus "social worker." Should parole supervision be oriented toward only one goal or task? Is it...

The traditional dual roles of parole officers have been described in simple terms as "cop" versus "social worker."

 Should parole supervision be oriented toward only one goal or task? Is it possible to achieve both of these roles simultaneously?

Asked on by lawman425

6 Answers

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Ashley Kannan | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted on

The inclusion of the word "should" in the question is going to bring out some divergent answers.  The idea of the parole officer is one that does embrace aspects of each.  When we think of the job, the parole officer is one that helps the person who has served their debt to society readjust to the demands of the social order.  In no way would I attempt to justify many of the heinous acts that criminals have done, but the readjustment to society is a challenge that requires the parole officer to help those who are trying to acclimate themselves to the demands of society.  There are components of their job that requires them to be a cop such as checking in on the whereabouts of parolees, ensuring that professional obligations are met, as well as making sure that the laws are being followed and not disrespected.  Yet, I do think that there is some part of a social worker in terms of attempting to understand how to work with someone whose life was on "the inside," but now is on "the outside."  There are specific challenges present in such a condition causing the profession to be seen in dualistic roles.

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brettd | High School Teacher | (Level 2) Educator Emeritus

Posted on

The two roles are not mutually exclusive.  Watch just one episode of "Cops" and you'll notice how much social work police officers actually do on a daily basis.  For Parole Officers, they conduct investigations, maintain case files and drug test parolees, which I could consider police work in many ways.

Focusing parole supervision towards one goal is possible, but only in a general sense.  We are seeking to prevent those on parole from reoffending by both limiting and monitoring their behavior.  That is the overall goal.  But to achieve that, there has to be a myriad of smaller goals - does not associate with known criminals, does not use drugs, does not leave the area they are paroled in, etc.  It's a pretty short leash, and all part of a mixed success program to prevent criminal recidivism.

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accessteacher | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted on

I don't necessarily think that this is an either/or role that parole officers have to encompass. In many ways, it depends so much on the context of the individuals that they are working with. I must admit, when I was reading the other posts, I did think of an analogy - teaching! Teachers can't have a one size fits all approach to their classes - I am very different with some classes than I am with others, and I guess for both professions, part of the skill lies in being able to discern which person needs more "policing" and which need more "social working" and which require a mix.

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Lori Steinbach | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted on

It seems to me the better the parole officer is at "cop"--that is, making sure his parolees show up and do what they're supposed to do--the more opportunity he has to be "social worker."  It's hard to help someone who isn't where he's supposed to be or doing what he's supposed to be doing.  I agree that this job is naturally a blend of these two things, and which is dominant probably depends more on the parolees than the probation officer. 

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lrwilliams | College Teacher | (Level 1) Educator

Posted on

I would agree that a parole officer has to be both a cop and social worker. I feel that the mix of these two is totally dependent on the individual he is working with. Some parolee's are ready to change and others are just hoping they don't get caught again.

User Comments

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epollock | (Level 3) Valedictorian

Posted on

It is quite a problem acting as both, but people do that all the time. teachers also act as police officers in enforcing school rules, so a parole officer can accomplish the same objectives as a social worker if that parole officer has the training and the skills to deal with many different types of situations that develop.