What is a Probation Officer?

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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 27 November 2019
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A probation officer works for the criminal justice system, supervising offenders who have not yet been sentenced for crimes or individuals who have been sentenced to probation or given suspended sentences. This differentiates a probation officer from a parole officer, who supervises prisoners who have been released early for good behavior. In some regions, the functions of probation and parole officer are combined for greater efficiency.

Primarily, a probation officer ensures that the terms of a probation are enforced. For example, a court may agree to put someone on probation if they agree not to consume drugs or alcohol, and to refrain from socializing with certain people. The officer meets with this individual along with family, friends, and employers, on a regular basis, and he or she may perform random visits or tests to ensure that the person is complying with the probation restrictions.

The number of people supervised by an officer varies, depending on region and the number of people out on probation at any given time. Most criminal justice systems try to keep people with the same officer, encouraging continuity of care. This also ensures that changes in behavior are quickly noted, as when someone meets with a probation officer once a month for three years, a sudden change in personality will be fairly obvious.


These members of the criminal justice community may or may not be law enforcement officers, depending on their training and the region. If a probation officer is a member of law enforcement, he or she can carry a weapon and serve arrest warrants. If not, the court may still grant him or her a concealed weapon permit for the purpose of self-protection in this potentially dangerous job.

In addition to supervising people, probation officers also write regular reports on their charges. These reports make note of good behavior, lapses on the terms of the probation, and missed or rescheduled meetings. While on probation, someone is subject to random searches or the revocation of probation based on information filed in this reports. These reports are also considered during the sentencing process.

Typically, a probation officer works with either adults or juveniles, but not both. He or she often has a degree in social work or a related field, in addition to specific training for working with people on probation. In addition to monitoring offenders, these officers also help to work on treatment and rehabilitation plans, and they may offer counseling and similar services as well.


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Discuss this Article

Post 18

In Texas, can a probation officer add extra courses, tell them they have to put that they have a felony on their job application even though they have not been convicted of one, deny them early release even thought it was part of their sentence, or make them take a polygraph constantly? This is all happening to a member of my family who, after they have served their probation, it will be expunged from their record.

Post 17

My probation worker is telling me that I can't have a relationship while I am on license. Is there any way I can fight this?

Post 16

I have been trying to figure out a few things, but cannot seem to retrieve any information.

My boyfriend's parole officer has met me in person a few months ago, and four months later, they want to do a community assessment. I thought they had done that when they met me. Is it legal for a parole officer to enter my home?

Is the parole officer legally allowed to forbid relationships with someone even though the person a parolee is with has no criminal record and has absolutely no substance addictions?

Post 15

I appreciate your information about probation officers. I have family in the business and it can be a great experience to see someone through some fantastic life style changes. It can also be a tough job at times.

Thanks again for your information and support of probation officers and the community.

Post 14

OK, can a probation officer make you go to a rehab for an "unstable environment"? And, can he insist that you stay there even after you complete the program?

Post 13

can probation officers search your entire house

if you are not the offender, but the offender lives there?

Post 12

My son had a probation woman and she is really a pain in the butt because she is not a good person. the only thing that she said to my son when she came to my house is do not forget to pay the money, stay away from the victim and the therapist inform, just that. The only thing she tries to do for my son is get my son upset because she is not a good person.

Post 11

My boyfriend is on parole at the moment and he said they are not supposed to do that all of that. They can't make you do things that are not court ordered because like anon47145 said they are your advisors, not your boss.

Post 10

can a probation officer make you do things not in your court order? she is making my husband do stuff that was not a court order. what can we do?

Post 8

can a probation officer give out confidential info. to just anyone on the phone without meeting them?

Post 6

while i was on probation for a dui and was doing community service working in a kitchen, I had to have my hair above the collar and had to have it trimmed at a barbershop once a month and i am a female. Mary

Post 5

Is it right for a probation officer to deny a person on probation to get a hair cut if they have not done any thing wrong since they have been on probation?

Post 3

no, because probation officers are advisers, and caring people. they supervise offenders and he will do his job with the help of the offender's parents and friends but in this case the parents have criminal records and alcoholism, the parents can't look after properly towards the offender. smita

Post 2

do probation officers place an adult offender in a home where there is admitted alcoholism and the parent has a criminal record?

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