What Does a Probation Investigator Do?

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  • Written By: Lainie Petersen
  • Edited By: Melissa Wiley
  • Last Modified Date: 31 March 2020
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A probation investigator conducts research on the circumstances and resources of individuals in the criminal justice system. Depending on the jurisdiction in which the probation investigator works, he or she may conduct interviews with defendants, follow up on references, or verify oral and written statements made by defendants. The probation investigator may also make decisions about referring a criminal justice defendant to various types of legal aid programs or other social services resources. An investigator's work is often crucial in the determination of whether a defendant is entitled to release into the community and the terms of the defendant's probation.

When individuals are arrested or convicted of a crime or crimes, the criminal justice system will determine whether these individuals should be incarcerated or released into the community. In situations where the individual is to live in the community, there are often various restrictions on his or her behavior so as to ensure that he or she is an active participant in the rehabilitation process and does not present a further threat to others. It is the work of a probation investigator to gather the information necessary to make decisions about granting probation and the restrictions to be placed on the defendant.


A probation investigator may begin his or her work with a defendant by reviewing information provided by the defendant after his or her arrest. In some cases, the investigator may be responsible for verifying the defendant’s identity and then determining if the defendant has friends or family members who are willing to help him or her make bail. The investigator may also use this information to help others in the criminal justice system make decisions as to whether an individual should be released. For example, a probation investigator can interview the defendant and others to determine whether the defendant has a job or other ties to the community that could reduce the risk of the defendant fleeing the area or committing another crime.

In many jurisdictions, a probation investigator may need to work with an assessment rubric that can assist him or her in determining what type of risk a defendant poses to society. The investigator can apply the information that he or she has obtained from the defendant to this rubric and can make an assessment as to the best way to proceed with the defendant's case. This information can then be supplied to a probation officer or a judge, who can then make a final decision about the defendant's future.


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