What are the pros and cons of being a probation officer?

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andrewnightingale eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Probation officers are specially trained officials who normally hold a degree in criminal justice, sociology, psychology, or a related field. They are normally employed either by the federal government or a law enforcement agency. Their job is to supervise criminal offenders who have been sentenced to a period of probation rather than imprisonment. The officer consults with a variety of agencies in law enforcement, social services, and others. The officer also holds regular meetings with the offenders and sometimes with their families. It is the officer's duty to monitor the offender to ensure compliance with the terms of their sentence.

The advantages of being a probation officer.

Probation officers play a significant role in society and in the law enforcement process. They help offenders to assimilate back into society and, in so doing, also help the community. Officers help offenders rehabilitate and assist them in becoming productive and law-abiding members of their communities.

The position offers stability and benefits. Probation officers are government employees and, as such, are entitled to fair compensation and benefits such as paid vacations, sick leave, pension, health, dental, and life insurance packages. Furthermore, being in government employ means greater job stability.

Probation work can be exciting because officers go into the streets to determine whether offenders are violating their probation by using drugs or carrying weapons. Some officers are even allowed to carry guns because they work with drug dealers and gangs. They can also sometimes work with police officers to arrest those they have been assigned to who have failed to comply with the court's instructions.

A probation officer's work offers much variety and is, therefore, unlikely to be boring. They meet with family members and associates of the perpetrator and regularly go to court to offer recommendations or testimony to judges about those under their supervision. They also tie into community programs and meet regularly with other officers. They help offenders in pursuing positive pursuits and also participate in support meetings or outpatient programs. Once an offender has been rehabilitated, an officer feels a sense of achievement and pride.

The disadvantages:

Probation officers have to be constantly on call and some departments may require them to be available twenty-four hours a day.

Working as a probation officer can lead to cynicism and feelings of distrust in other people because the type of criminal element they deal with often lie about their behavior. Others related to the offender may also tell untruths in efforts to mislead the officer.

Probation officers need to complete loads of paperwork. They constantly need to write reports about offenders, do sentencing recommendations, and write background reports.

Some of the tasks officers do, may be really unpleasant. They are required to, for example, regularly take and transport urine samples of drug offenders. 

Probation officers may be constantly confronted by dangerous situations. Offenders may feel that the officers impose on their freedoms and may want to break away by using violence or attempt to even permanently rid themselves of the officer. The offenders sometimes live in dangerous neighborhoods that the officers have to visit. The officer also has to interact with members of the offender's family, who may also have criminal tendencies or be psychologically or emotionally unstable.

writer15 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Probation officers are charged with the duty of keeping track of individuals who have been charged with crimes that require court ordered supervision.  It is the probation officer's primary duty to try to ensure that these individuals do not engage in acts that are prohibited under the law or under the conditions that were established for the individual to remain in society.  

The pros of being a probation officer include a variety of job opportunities and work settings as well as a minimal educational requirement.  Unlike police officers, one is not required to undergo extensive training to become a probation officer.  Furthermore, probation officers can work out of a probation office, a group home, or at a correctional institution.

The cons of being a probation officer include interacting with people who have been convicted of crimes, who may be violent, try to escape their probation, or carry a weapon. Being a probation officer can be a dangerous job at times and the safety of the officer may be threatened.  In addition, the probation officer may not be able to keep track of every criminal under his or her charge and that person may commit another crime which involves harm to someone else.  Furthermore, there is often a great deal of paperwork that must be done in the day to day job of a probation officer.