Juvenile probation/parol officers...what can you tell me about your profession?
December 21, 2008 6:54 PM   Subscribe

Juvenile probation/parol officers...what can you tell me about your profession?

Any juvenile (or adult) probation/parole officers out there? Why did you get into your line of work and how to you generally feel about the offenders that you work with? What are your day to day tasks? I'd love to know anything about the profession. I'm especially interested in the juvenile justice system. Anything helps!
posted by pdx87 to Work & Money (2 answers total)
I work at an adult probation office as an intern on breaks and in the summer, and so I see a lot of what goes on.

Why: people talk about how the judicial system needs to rehabilitate rather than just punish, and that's what probation is. A lot of the offenders blow it and end up in prison, but it gives them a second chance. Believe it or not, the officers want to see their offenders succeed. We all try to have a good opinion of the offenders but of course some develop a rather poor reputation around the office after having messed up a few times. I really think it's a job where you have to care about the people, though--you won't be very effective if you have no positive feelings about the people you work with.

Day to day: A lot of paperwork. Just like any job, and especially one in the legal system, you'll have all kinds of paperwork. A lot of my job is dealing with the paperwork generated by the officers and believe me, there's a lot of it. We keep a lot of our case records on a computer system but we still have to keep paper files because scanned signatures are still of questionable legal value. Anything used in court has to be on paper for obvious reasons, as do all orders signed by a judge. So expect to be doing that a lot of the time.

A good portion of each officer's day is taken up with appointments scheduled with their offenders; these usually last about 15 minutes each and are scheduled about a month in advance. This ebbs and flows, so some days you might be seeing 10 people and some days you'll see 2 or 3. Beyond that, the officers in our department take turns going to court (we have county court every Wednesday and an officer has to be there to escort people to our office after they're placed on probation) and making appearances as witnesses in some cases. Field visits are another aspect of the job, although this isn't a daily thing. On Friday two of the officers went and brought an offender back to the office, which was kind of interesting although it doesn't happen much.

I personally really like my job and if I wasn't already fairly far along in my degree program I might consider going into it. The system doesn't work all the time, but there are definitely success stories. Every person I work with seems to really like what they're doing.

If you have any more questions, feel free to ask here or MeMail me!
posted by DMan at 7:11 PM on December 21, 2008

Speaking as both a client of a juvenile P.O., as well as someone who spent a good deal of time around the office when I got older (helping out the volunteer probation officers*), these are the people who make a difference. Once a kid gets entangled in this system, the probation officers are the #1 frontline contact.

Mind you, I'm talking about how things were in the early 70's. The issues weren't usually big or ugly, and resources weren't terribly scarce. In that time and place, a large portion of the kids were only involved in what was, literally, kid's stuff: truancy, 'running away', and 'incorrigible'.

But in this position, dealing with kids like that, you're going to have your heart broken. You'll learn stuff you'll wish you didn't. You'll see inside some ugly family crap. Some times, you'll be able to make it right. Other times, it will go wrong, and you'll blame yourself. And then there are the times when you'll desperately wish to kill some SOB who's making some kid's life a hell.

Sound fun? When you do win, it's a considerably large prize. Can you deal with the emotional rollercoaster? You'll need your emotions, turning them off won't work.

*One PO ended up a life-long friend. I helped out down there with a bit of paperwork, and heard a lot of stories over the years. Thanks for resurrecting fond memories.
posted by Goofyy at 10:08 AM on December 24, 2008

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