Parole entails the release from prison of those persons who have successful completed a jail term. During this time, such individuals are expected to stay out of trouble and are placed under the supervision of parole officers to monitor their progress and prevent them from committing any more crime.
As a result, the duty of parole officers involves, among others, a supervisory role over offenders released on parole. According to the US Department of Labor, (2010), “in most jurisdictions, it is the state that and not the local government which ensure parole to those who have been released from prison”.
Parole officers assist those involved in correctional treatment in determining whether an offender needs to be released on parole or not (Elizabeth and Kitchen, 1999). Lower level parole officers are juniors in the field who still have less experience (Elizabeth and Kitchen, 1999).
Parole officers may maintain personal contact with the offenders or with their close family members to make easier their monitoring activities easier. In some cases, the offender may fail to show up; the parole officer therefore has to visit the offender at his or her place of work or home.
There is often the requirement for individuals on parole to be monitored via electric devices (Department of Corrections, 2010). The officer may also make a surprise visit to the offender’s home or workplace during the rehabilitation period to check the progress of the offender that has been observed by the relatives and the workmates.
Parole officers do not just ensure the offenders they are dealing with do not commit new crimes but also work to help re-integrate them into the society so that they become responsible members of the society. They may arrange job training and education for them so as to improve their job skills and make them independent members of the society (Department of Corrections, 2010).
They also help the parolees find somewhere to live. They help them readjust to life outside the prisons by providing counseling and emotional support. For example, an officer may counsel an offender on how to get a job.
Parole officers do not just perform the duty of supervising offenders who have been released from prison but also perform other state functions. Apart from the long travels and field work activities that they make while meeting the offenders on parole, they are also expected to meet the many strict court deadlines (US Department of Labor, 2010). Parole officers normally work for the courts in helping with investigations on crimes committed by the offenders while on parole.
A parole officer is supposed to report any criminal offense committed by an offender and help arrest such parolees. When a parolee commits a crime, the officer has the authority to arrest the parolee and hand him or her over to the police or ask for assistance from the police to arrest the parolee (Elizabeth and Kitchen, 1999). Due to the nature of their work, they are allowed to carry guns (Elizabeth and Kitchen, 1999).
The officer may also assist in investigating parolees whom are not under his or her supervision. In doing this, the officer has to consider whether individual is a first-time offender or a habitual offender. In the event that the offender has been previously implicated in substance abuse, the courts requires the parole officer to collect the offender’s urine sample for purposes of analysis to ascertain for a fact that they have indeed been using drugs.
According to the US Department of Labor (2010), the criminal justice system requires the testimonies of parole officers regarding the investigation that they had been commissioned to undertake, along with the recommendations that they might have arrived at. Over the last forty years, the number of crimes has increased tremendously.
Another major area that contributes to their heavy workload is the excess paperwork or the large volume of data both in hard copy or soft copy that they are supposed to manage. Parole officers and probation officers are the only professionals that deal with offenders through all the stages of justice. Therefore they have much information to manage considering that they have to meet the court-imposed justice deadlines and also supervise and help offenders meet their needs.
Besides, parole officers may be assigned dangerous criminals or to work in crime-prone areas or even in areas with communicable diseases. These expose them to work-related violence or even health risks. At times, there is the chance of a paroled offender to get involved in even a far more complicated crime than the one that led to their being imprisoned ,in the first place. On the other hand, an offender who has been parole might as well take to the same drugs that got them arrested.
Parole agencies as well as other criminal correctional institutions are underfunded by the state. Despite the increasing number of offenders; parolees in particular including dangerous criminals, these institutions receive less than 10% of correctional funding from the legislative council (Rosecrance, 1986). Thus they have not been able to fully meet the needs of the offenders as well as their supervision roles.
Considering that offenders pose differential risks to parole officers, it is therefore important that the Department of Corrections apply a differential supervision approach to offenders. This implies that the department and in particular the correctional treatment specialists carry out a risk assessment for offenders before they are released from jails so that the type of protection and supervision given to parole officers matches their risk potential.
The Department of Corrections also needs to look at the possibility of applying an intensive supervision approach (National Institute for Justice, 2005). This would enable the department provide a community-based corrective approach which could greatly help reduce caseloads in courts as well as offenders’ reentry.
This would involve a coordinated weekly record check with the police and other law enforcement officers as well as a five times face-to-face meeting with parole officers. This should be done at the parole officer’s office, at the offender’s workplace and at home. This supervision should be spread across the week to include the weekend. This approach should also involve night curfews put on the offenders starting at dusk and should be closely supervised by the parole officer.
The heavy workloads and the risks involved in the job are major sources of stress and affect the officers’ ability to deliver quality services. It is therefore essential to develop stress related programs, reduce officers’ workloads and increase the safety of the officers. This would help improve the officers’ performance and decrease the officers’ absenteeism from job.
Department of Corrections. (2010). Parole supervision. Retrieved November 25, 2010 from: http://www.michigan.gov/corrections/0,1607,7-119-1435—,00.html
Elizabeth, R., and Kitchen, C.(1999). What are the duties of parole officers? Retrieved November 28, 2010 from: http://www.ehow.com/about_5192259_duties-parole-officers_.html
National Institute for Justice. (2005). Stress among probation and parole officers and what can be done about it. Washington D.C.: US Department of Justice.
Rosecrance, J. (1986). Probation supervision: Mission impossible. Reno: University of Nevada Press.
US Department of Labor. (2010). Occupational outlook handbook, 2010-11 Edition. Washington D. C.: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.