Community Corrections33


Corrections in the Community.

© 2011, Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. 197

Chapter 7

… A parole officer can be seen going off to his/her appointed rounds with Freud in one hand and a .38 Smith and Wesson in the other hand. It is by no means clear that Freud is as helpful as the .38 in most areas where parole officers venture … Is Freud backup to the .38? Or is the .38 carried to support Freud?

—David Fogel

As Fogel (McCleary, 1978) succinctly indicates, the role of the probation or parole officer (PO)1 has traditionally been viewed as a dichotomy (American Correctional Association, 1995). The supervision role involves maintain- ing surveillance (societal protection) over as well as helping or treating the offender (counseling, rehabilitation, reintegration). Community supervi- sion officers are often left to their own devices with regard to which role would be most appropriate in supervising their caseloads (Figure 7.1). This dilemma is likely to remain with us even though calls from several quarters of the criminal justice system point toward impending changes in the role

Roles of Probation and Parole Officers

conditions of probation investigation proactive supervision

protective officer restorative justice surveillance

welfare officer punitive officer

Key terms

1Throughout this chapter, when the abbreviation PO is utilized, it is meant to designate both probation and parole officers. Their views with regard to their role, as well as the dilemmas that they face, are related so intimately that this abbreviation will not misrepresent the opinions, findings, and conclusions of the various authors.

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Chapter 7: roles of probation and parole Officers198

of the supervising officer (Bonta, Rugge, Scott, Bourgon, & Yessine, 2008; Reinventing Probation Council, 2001; Taxman & Byrne, 2001; Trotter, 1999). This chapter describes and outlines the boundaries of this role conflict as it has developed over time, the problems associated with it, and the responsi- bilities of probation and parole agencies.

respONsIBILItIes OF prOBatION aND parOLe aGeNCIes To begin, it is necessary to examine what duties and responsibilities are held in common by probation and parole agencies. O’Leary (1974) has argued that parole resembles probation in several ways. With both, information is gathered and presented to a decision-making authority (either a judge or a parole board). This authority has the power to release (parole) or suspend the sentence (probation) of the offender. In turn, the liberty that the offender enjoys is subject to certain conditions that are imposed by the decision-making authority. If these conditions are not obeyed, the offender may be sentenced, or returned, to prison.

However, parole differs from probation in distinct ways. The offender on parole has served a portion of his or her sentence in a correctional facility. The decision to release the offender from prison is usually an administrative one, made by the parole board. The decision to grant probation lies entirely with the court. As Wallace (1974:950) has written, “Probation is more than a pro- cess; it connotes an organization, basically a service agency, designed to assist the court and to perform particular functions in the administration of criminal justice.”

Figure 7.1 Average caseload for probation and parole agencies. Source: Camp and Camp (2003) and American Correctional Association (2008).

0 20 40 60 80

100 120 140 160 180

1990 1992 1994 1996 1999 2001 2007

Parole Probation Probation & Parole

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199Responsibilities of Probation and Parole Agencies

Despite these differences, probation and parole agencies share one particular and significant function: They provide supervision of offenders in the com- munity. The basic question remains: What is the purpose of supervision? To Wallace, the function of supervision, drawn from the social work field, is based on the casework model. Supervision is the basis of a treatment program. The officer uses all information available about the offender to make diag- nosis of that person’s needs and to design a treatment plan. One example of a treatment plan for probationers, emphasizing the need for reintegration, was first suggested by the President’s Commission on Law Enforcement and Administration of Justice (1967:30):

… developing the offender’s effective participation in the major social institutions of the school, business and church … which offer access to a successful career.

However, providing treatment is only one aspect of supervision. In addition, the PO is expected to maintain surveillance of those offenders who make up the caseload.

A classic definition of surveillance was provided by the National Conference of Parole (Studt, 1978:65):

Surveillance is that activity of the parole officer which utilizes watchfulness, checking, and verification of certain behavior of a parolee without contributing to a helping relationship with him.

Although these statements indicate that the treatment and surveillance roles of the probation/parole officer are almost diametrically opposed, several authors have indicated that they coexist as a part of the agency’s mission. In fact, Carlson and Parks (1979:155–157) have listed four major responsibilities of a probation or parole agency:

n Surveillance: While the term “surveillance” usually means simply “watching” in a police sense, it should be pointed out that a helping purpose is also intended. When surveillance is carried out properly, the client is continually sensitized to the possible results of a course of action that has made him vulnerable in the past. Just as an alcoholic or narcotics addict who is trying to change his life derives support from frequent contact with others who have conquered their problems successfully, so also can many clients derive beneficial results from frequent meetings with the probation officer.

n Investigation: The investigation function includes reporting violative behavior, or actual violation on the part of probationers, and gathering facts about arrests and reporting suspicions to supervisors.

n Concrete Needs Counseling: This type of counseling includes the following areas: employment, education, training, housing, clothing, financial, medical, dental, legal, and transportation.

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Chapter 7: roles of probation and parole Officers200

n Emotional Needs Counseling: The services that a probation officer provides depend on the needs of clientele they serve. These needs can include marital/family relationships, companions, emotional stability, alcohol and drug usage, mental ability, and sexual behavior.

rOLe typOLOGIes In one of the first studies of types of officers, Ohlin, Piven, and Pappenfort (1956:211–225) developed the following typology of PO styles:

n The punitive officer, who perceives himself as the guardian of middle- class morality; he attempts to coerce the offender into conforming by means of threats and punishment and emphasizes control, the protection of the community against the offender, and the systematic suspicion of those under supervision.

n The protective officer, who vacillates literally between protecting the offender and protecting the community. His tools are direct assistance, lecturing, and, alternately, praise and blame. He is perceived as ambivalent in his emotional involvement with the offender and others in the community as he shifts back and forth in taking sides with one against the other.

n The welfare officer, who has as his ultimate goal the improved welfare of the client, achieved by aiding him in his individual adjustment within limits imposed by the client’s capacity. Such an officer believes that the only genuine guarantee of community protection lies in the client’s personal adjustment, as external conformity will only be temporary and, in the long run, may make a successful adjustment more difficult. Emotional neutrality permeates his relationship. The diagnostic categories and treatment skills that he employs stem from an objective and theoretically based assessment of the client’s needs and capacities.

Glaser (1969) later extended this typology to include, as a fourth category, the passive officer, who sees his job as a sinecure, requiring only minimum effort. For example, Erickson (1977:37) has satirically offered the following gambit to officers who wish to “fake it” and have an “ideal, trouble-free caseload”:

“I’m just so busy—never seem to have enough time.” A truly professional execution of this ploy does require some preparation. Make sure that your desktop is always inundated with a potpourri of case files, messages, memos, unopened mail, and professional literature … Have your secretary hold all your calls for a few days and schedule several appointments for the same time. When, after a lengthy wait, the probationer is finally ushered into your presence, impress him (or her) with the volume of your business … Always write while conversing

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201Role Typologies

with the subject, and continue to make and receive telephone calls. Interrupt your dialogue with him to attend to other important matters, such as obtaining the daily grocery list from your wife or arranging to have your car waxed. Apologize repeatedly and profusely for these necessary interruptions and appear to be distracted, weary, and slightly insane. Having experienced the full treatment, it is unlikely that the probationer will subsequently try to discuss with you any matters of overwhelming concern. He could even feel sorrier for you than he does for himself. You should henceforth be able to deal with him on an impersonal basis, if indeed he tries to report anymore at all.

The complete typology is presented in tabular form in Figure 7.2. The key distinction in this figure is the manner in which the supervising officer per- sonally views the purpose of the job of supervision. Personal preference and motivations of the PO will often determine the style of supervision that is followed.

A similar typology was developed by Klockars (1972), based on the working philosophy of the officer. The first style that he presented is that of the “law enforcer.” Such officers are motivated primarily by (1) the court order and obtaining offender compliance with it, (2) the authority and decision-making power of the PO, (3) officer responsibility for public safety, and (4) police work—the PO as police officer of the agency.

The second category is that of the “time server.” This individual feels that the job has certain requirements to be fulfilled until retirement—“I don’t make the rules; I just work here.” The third type is the “therapeutic agent,” a supervising officer who accepts the role of administrator of a form of treatment (usually casework-oriented) to help the offender.

Finally, the “synthetic officer” attempts to blend treatment and law enforce- ment components by “combining the paternal, authoritarian, and judg- mental with the therapeutic.” The synthetic officer attempts to solve what

Emphasis on Control


Emphasis on Assistance

HIGH Protective Officer Welfare Officer

LOW Punitive Officer Passive Officer

Figure 7.2 Typology of PO supervision styles. Source: Jordan and Sasfy (1974).

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Chapter 7: roles of probation and parole Officers202

Miles (1965a) terms criminal justice (offender is wrong but responsible for own behavior) with treatment (casework, offender is sick) goals. In sum, Klockars’s typology rounds out the original scheme developed by Ohlin et al. (1956) by providing an example through which the PO can integrate the best of each possible role.2

Czajkoski (1973) expanded on the law enforcement role of the officer’s job by outlining the quasi-judicial role of the probation officer. He develops his thesis on five lines of functional analysis. The first line examines the plea bargaining; Czajkoski cites Blumberg’s (1974) argument that the probation officer serves to “cool the mark” in the confidence game of plea bargaining by assuring the defendant of how wise it was to plead guilty. In this fusion, the PO certifies the plea bargaining process—a task that can significantly undermine the helping/ counseling role of the PO.

The second line of quasi-judicial functioning by the probation officer occurs at the intake level. For example, at the juvenile level, the officer is often asked which cases are appropriate for judicial processing. Like the prosecutor, this function permits the probation officer to have some control over the intake of the court.

The third quasi-judicial function of the probation officer concerns setting the conditions of probation, a power the judge often gives the probation officer. This often leads to discretionary abuses, as indefinite conditions (often mor- alistic or vague in terms of the offender’s behavior) can become a vehicle for maintaining the moral status quo as interpreted by the probation officer. In addition, probation conditions can become substitutions for, or even usurp, certain formal judicial processes. For example, the monetary obligations3 of the probationer (such as supporting dependents) can be enforced by the pro- bation officer rather than by a court that is designed specifically to handle such matters (Schneider, Griffith, & Schneider, 1982).

The fourth quasi-judicial role is concerned with probation violation procedures. Czajkoski contends that such procedures are highly discretionary, especially in view of the vague and all-encompassing nature of the probation conditions, which are usually not enforced until the officer has reason to believe that the pro- bationer is engaged in criminal activity. Petersilia and Turner (1993) noted that increased surveillance increases the incidence of technical violations (Marciniak, 2000), jail terms, and incarceration rates, as well as program and court costs.

2Nowhere is the dichotomy of rehabilitation–casework versus surveillance–control more evident than between juvenile and adult probation officers. Juvenile officers support the former by a wide margin, but felony probation officers, particularly males, are more likely to endorse law enforcement strategies. See Sluder and Reddington (1993) and Brown and pratt (2000). 3Most probationers satisfy financial obligations as ordered by the court Allen and Treger (1994). For fines levied on corporations, see Clarkson (2000).

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203Role Typologies

The final quasi-judicial role of the probation officer concerns the ability to administer punishment. Because the officer may restrict the liberty of his or her charge in several ways, this is tantamount to punishment. In this fashion, Czajkoski highlights some of the actions officers take that relate to his or her function as a quasi-judicial official and illustrates more ways in which the PO uses discretionary power in judicial-like ways.

Tomaino (1975) also attempts to reveal some of the hidden functions of pro- bation officers. Figure 7.3 summarizes the Tomaino typology. Once again, concern for control is contrasted with concern for rehabilitation. To Tomaino,

Probationers will want to keep the rules once they get insight about themselves. The PO should be supportive, warm, and nonjudg- mental in his relations with them.

Probationers will keep the rules when it is credible to do so because this better meets their needs. The PO should be open but firm, and focus on the content of his relations with probationer.

The 1/9 Face Help-Him-Understand

The 9/9 Face Have-It-Make-Sense

Probationers should know exactly what they have to do, what happens if they don’t do it, and it is up to them to perform.

Probationers will keep the rules only if you take a hard line, exert very close supervision, and stay completely objective in your relations with them.

The 1/1 Face It’s-Up-To-Him

The 9/1 Face Make-Him-Do-It

Probationers will keep the rules if they like their PO and identify with him and his values. The PO must work out solid compromises in his relations with the probations.

The 5/5 Face Let-Him-Identify

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9










Figure 7.3 The five faces of probation supervision. Source: Tomaino (1975:43).

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Chapter 7: roles of probation and parole Officers204

the key probation officer role is the “Have It Make Sense” face. This role attempts to integrate the often-conflicting concerns of societal protection and offender rehabilitation. Accordingly, Tomaino recommends that the officer stress goals, not offender personality traits, to “… organize legitimate choices through a collaborative relationship which induces the client to act in accord with prosocial expectations.” Perhaps, as Lindner (1975) suggests, the proba- tion officer can create a learning situation for the offender and induce a desire for change.

In sum, these authors indicate that the supervising officer has a range of choices concerning the style of supervision to be followed and the ultimate goal of the entire probation/parole process. There is a strong emphasis here upon blend- ing the need for control with the need for counseling. The officer must choose which style to adopt based on the individual client (severity of the offense, amenability to treatment) and the nature of the situation. Supervising officers clearly have the discretionary power to either enforce the law (i.e., conditions of supervision) or offer help and treatment. No doubt, the world view of the PO also plays a crucial role in this decision.

CharaCterIstICs OF eFFeCtIVe ChaNGe aGeNts What are the characteristics of effective probation and parole officers? Research by Gendreau and Andrews (2001), as well as others, suggests that the most effec- tive change agents possess several characteristics. First, they are able to develop a strong collaborative relationship with offenders. Warmth, genuineness, and flexibility characterize such relationships. Second, effective change agents are firm but fair, have a sense of humor, and believe that offenders can change. Third, they are able to model behavior in concrete and vivid ways. Fourth, they are a source of not simply punishment, but of reinforcement for positive behavior. Finally, an effective change agent discourages negative attitudes and behaviors with strong, emphatic statements of disagreement. Unfortunately, as Shichor (1978:37) points out, such characteristics often stand in sharp con- trast to current probation and parole practices that are more oriented toward “people processing” than “people changing.” Research has also confirmed that the vast majority of officers do not target major criminogenic needs (such as antisocial attitudes and social supports for crime) and do not commonly use skills (such as prosocial modeling and effective reinforcement) to influence long-term behavioral change in offenders (see Bonta et al., 2008).

Most recently, training curricula designed to teach community supervision offi- cers how to apply core correctional practices in their face-to-face interactions with offenders have been piloted in several jurisdictions (see Bonta et al., 2008;

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205The Self-image of Probation and Parole Officers

Smith & Latessa, 2010; Trotter, 1999). Preliminary results from several sites in Canada suggest that trained officers achieve greater reductions in caseload recid- ivism when compared to untrained officers (Bonta et al., 2008). Additional research on this topic is forthcoming and will undoubtedly contribute to our understanding of how parole and probation officers can be better used as agents of change.

the seLF-ImaGe OF prOBatION aND parOLe OFFICers How do probation and parole officers see themselves and their work? Over the years several studies have focused on agents to secure their views concerning what the appropriate goals of supervision should be and, within the criminal justice system, where such agents primarily identify with their allegiance.

In an early study, Miles (1965b) surveyed all 116 probation and parole officers on duty in Wisconsin on a single day. In addition, 48 officers were interviewed and accompanied into the field by the researchers. On the basis of these data, Miles discovered that a majority of these officers basically identified with the field of corrections (61.5%). The clear majority of individuals identified them- selves as probation officers when dealing with judges (81%), social agencies (69%), and potential client employers (79%). These officers emphasized their identification with correctional work and did not wish to have this primary link absorbed by another area (e.g., social work). The survey also uncovered what is considered to be the basic dilemma of probation in terms of its pri- mary goal: offender rehabilitation versus societal protection.

In a study of job tasks, Colley, Culbertson, and Latessa (1987) surveyed 70 juvenile probation officers in Illinois. Table 7.1 illustrates the tasks per- formed by at least 40 percent of the sample. While most studies of probation officers have been conducted in urban areas, it is important to note what appear to be differences in the roles and tasks performed between urban and rural probation officers. Rural officers perform a wider range of tasks than urban officers and are less specialized (Colley, Culbertson, & Latessa, 1986).

For larger probation departments, specialization has become more common. There are presen- tence investigation units, assessment units, fugitive and warrant units, surveillance officers, and specialized caseload units. In rural departments it is still common to have every probation officer perform all of these tasks.

BOx 7.1 aLL thINGs tO aLL peOpLe

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Chapter 7: roles of probation and parole Officers206

Overall, the studies examined reveal that POs are aware of the surveil- lance/treatment dichotomy that exists with regard to style of supervision. A number of factors (age, education, years of job experience) are related to or influence the PO’s style and method of supervision. Yet, in general, there is a distinct lack of consensus over which style of supervision should dominate.

social Work or Law enforcement?

The split between treatment and surveillance has attracted a great deal of attention, but very little in terms of empirical studies. Most authors seem to interpret role conflict as somehow tragic, intractable, and overwhelming. The most common solution has been to advocate that one orientation must be

table 7.1 Tasks Performed by at Least 40 Percent of Respondents on a Weekly or Daily Basis

Skills Percent

COURT Attends court hearings with client 58.6 Takes court notes on court proceedings of clients 47.2 Confers with State’s Attorney about cases 64.2

SUPERVISION—CASELOAD MANAGEMENT Meets with minor in office, home, and at school 57.1 Listens to complaints and problems 72.9 Asks minors about any general problems and disturbances


Inquires about police contacts 44.3 Consults teachers, therapists, significant others, community services agencies


Intervenes in crisis situations 42.9 Counsels parents 47.8 Confers with dean of students or school counselors 47.8

CASE NOTING Accounts for the entire history of the case 65.7

MONTHLY STATISTICS Documents all intakes, transfers, terminations, etc. 44.9

STAFFINGS Confers with other staff on informal basis about cases 60.8

Source: Colley, Culbertson, and Latessa (1987:5).

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207The Self-image of Probation and Parole Officers

emphasized over all others (Gettinger, 1981). Simply put, is it the role of the probation or parole officer or that of the helper or the cop?4

The roots of role conflict often are attributed to inconsistencies that exist in the three main functions of supervision: to enforce the legal requirements of supervision (the “law enforcement” role), to assist the offender in establishing a successful community adjustment (the “social worker” role), and to carry out the policies of the supervision agency (the “bureaucrat” role). The existence of this role conflict has been seen as a major source of staff burnout (Lindquist & Whitehead, 1986; Whitehead, 1989). Others have recommended aban- doning one of the roles, either social work (Barkdull, 1976) or law enforce- ment (Stanley, 1976). Interestingly, no one seems to believe seriously that the bureaucratic role can ever be eliminated (Lipsky, 1980; Rosecrance, 1987; Takagi, 1967).

One critic of surveillance is Conrad (1979:21), who writes:

We can hardly justify parole services on the basis of the surveillance model. What the parole officer can do, if it should be done at all, can better be done by the police. The pushing of doorbells, the recording of “contacts,” and the requirement of monthly reports all add up to expensive pseudoservices. At best they constitute a costly but useless frenzy of activity. But more often than not, I suspect, they harass and humiliate the parolee without gaining even the illusion of control.

Clear and Latessa (1993:442) believe that role conflict is common to most professions.

College professors face the age-old conflict of research and teaching; lawyers confront the conflicting demands of client advocacy and case management; even ministers must consider whether they represent the interest of deities to the world or the needs of lost souls (and requisite bodies) in the world.

Certainly, probation or parole officers have no monopoly on role conflict. Many feel that the true “professional” finds a way of integrating various role expectations, balancing them and weighing the appropriateness of various expressions of the roles. There is even some evidence that the roles of “social worker” and “law enforcer” are not incompatible and that organizational pol- icy can have a direct impact on the attitudes and behavior of probation and parole officers (Clear & Latessa, 1993).

4For a discussion of law enforcement officers as agents of reintegrative surveillance. See Guarino- Ghezzi (1994).

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Chapter 7: roles of probation and parole Officers208

A recent development in PO work is the increased level of assault by clients, leading to demand for arming of, or increased firepower (or both) for, POs (North Carolina Department of Corrections News, 1999). The exact number of critical incidents is unknown, as there is no state of federal bank that tracks the dangers faced by probation, parole, and even pretrial persons. However, a survey of probation & parole officers in Minnesota (Arola & Lawrence, 1999) found that 19 percent reported one or more physical assaults during their career, and 74 percent reported being threatened verbally or physically at least once. A sim- ilar study in Florida in 1999 found one in 20 probation and parole officers were battered each year (Florida Corrections Commission, 2000). With the emerging emphasis on supervision and surveillance within community correc- tions, the potential for crisis will increase. Another study of the extent of seri- ous assault on community correctional personnel (Bigger, 1993) found 1818 incidents since 1980, probably only the tip of the iceberg. Camp and Camp (2003) reported more than 16,400 assaults by inmates on prison correctional staff in 2002; about one in four required medical attention. A national study concluded that 14 percent of juvenile justice institutional staff were assaulted in 1998 (Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, 1998).

Not only is there a need for a central information bank that would track critical incidents, there is a need for in-service training and orientation that would lessen the incipient danger. Brown (1993) suggested that PO safety could be enhanced by physical training, as well as learning skills to respond to such crises, including deescalation techniques, understanding the continuum of force, and how to make effective use of authority. Perhaps there is “no farewell to arms” in the offing, and administrators might implement training sessions to reduce liability and protect workers (Janes, 1993; Chavaria, 1993; & National Institute of Corrections, 2001).

eDUCatION aND traINING OF prOBatION aND parOLe OFFICers During the past 30 years, several national commissions and studies have rec- ommended formal education as a means of significantly improving the deliv- ery of justice in this country (American Bar Association, 1970; National Advisory Commission, 1973a; National Manpower Survey of the Criminal Justice System,

Recently, many probation departments have begun training officers on …