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What does a Parole Officer do?

By Cassie L. Damewood
Updated May 17, 2024
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A parole officer assists parolees in reintegrating into all aspects of society subsequent to early release from jail or prison. She customarily helps the parolee find a place to live and work prior to their release. Her job may be as part of a small or large department at a local or regional level. The number of parolees in her scope of responsibility normally ranges between 70 and 130.

Although parole officers and probation officers are frequently referred to as having the same job functions, they do not. A parole officer monitors and provides guidance to convicts who are released from confinement before the official end of their sentences. This early release is often based on good behavior or post-sentencing information or statements provided by attorneys. It can be revoked for a number of reasons, all of which normally involve the behavior of the parolee.

A probation officer has the same job function as a parole officer except a person on probation has not been sentenced to or served time in jail or prison. Probation is generally granted in lieu of a prison or jail sentence. It too can be rescinded if the convicted person violates the terms of probation.

After she finds a parolee living quarters and employment, a parole officer ordinarily helps find affordable health care, educational resources and, if applicable, drug testing and counseling facilities. Her job is to give the parolee every opportunity to become a functioning member of the populace and avoid subversive activities and associates. She normally maintains a close relationship with the parolee and provides basic motivational and psychological support.

An effective parole officer is normally required to keep detailed and timely records of the parolees’ activities. She often visits the parolees at home, work and during their visits to friends and family. Her observations and remarks commonly have a great impact on the parolees’ standings with the court during parole hearings. If any of the parolees in her trust are involved in criminal activities, she is normally called upon to testify in court on what behavior she observed.

Due to the danger often associated with her job, a parole officer is normally compelled to be trained in the use of firearms and required to carry one. Not only may the parolee pose danger to the officer, the parolee’s family or friends may harbor hostility or have past conflicts to settle. These ill feelings may escalate into risky situations that require the parole officer to defend herself.

This position normally requires a bachelor’s degree in sociology, criminal justice, psychology or corrections. Some positions require at least a year of graduate work in similar concentrations. Work experience in counseling or law enforcement is preferred.

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Discussion Comments
By AnswerMan — On Feb 18, 2014

@Cageybird, I think being a parole officer is a game of percentages. He or she would have to know that some of his or her parolees are not going to be successful. All a parole officer can do is provide the tools and support. It's up to the parolee to decide how seriously he or she will take this second chance.

By Cageybird — On Feb 17, 2014

I don't know if I could handle being a parole officer. It would be difficult for me to see the good in certain released convicts, for one thing. An effective parole officer would have to work in faith that the parolee really wants to reform. I don't know if I could be that trusting. If I got a phone call at 3 in the morning informing me that one of my parolees was just arrested for a serious crime, I don't know if I could do anything other than cry.

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