Probation started in 1841 with John Augustus with supervising offenders (Purkiss, 2003). These offenders were either on temporary suspension or postponing of a sentence. Purkiss also states that Augustus helped the offenders getting homes, finding employment, and family difficulties if any. Augustus helped the offender with anything they needed to get their normal life back on track. In 1880 probation when statewide in Massachusetts, and the following years it expanded over several states, the juvenile system, and the federal government. By 1956, every state had applied probation. Severe criticism hit probation around the early 1970’s about the rehabilitation model of criminal justice. “The criticism resulted in the “get tough” response to the crime that embraced retribution, deterrence, and incapacitation, as the proper goals of corrections” (Purkiss, 2003). Purkiss also stated that in the 1990’s, Benekos detected as part of the “get tough”, community corrections was created in return from the “get tough” response and the community protection and the offender control became the primary goal.
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With overcrowding prison becoming a problem, probation has taken a bigger leap. The prisons being overcrowded there was only solution for rehabilitation that seemed to work. So probation helped the offenders get out and do their community service while being supervised and still protecting the community at the same time. They learned how to give back without everyone looking at them in a bad way. In result from all of this made an overcrowded population of offenders on probation which in turn made a very heavy workload for the probation officers. So the probation officers have to work harder and longer to make sure their jobs are done right and to make sure everything is alright while they have the offenders out. According to Purkiss (2003) regular probation is seen as meaningless and ineffective to some researchers, policymakers, and to the public. I think this is because the researchers, policymakers, and the public think the offender got off the hook for the crime they committed. The actual punishment is not hard enough for some and some think that the punishment should be harder than community service.
It takes a lot to be a probation officer, and there is a lot that you have to handle during your time at the job. The qualities you need to have to be a good probationer officer are the following: communication skills, critical-thinking skills, decision-making skills, emotional stability, organizational skills, and writing skills (“Occupational Outlook Handbook,” 2012-2013). These skills are essential for the role as a probation officer in any state in the United States of America. In order to become a probation officer you have to have some education beyond the typical high school diploma. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics a bachelor’s degree in social work, criminal justice, psychology, or a related field. Some employer’s want a master’s degree in a related field for people who do not have former work experience. “The median annual wage of probation officers and correctional treatment specialists was $47,200 in May 2010. The median wage is the wage at which half of the workers in an occupation earned more than that amount and half earned less. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $30,920, and the top 10 percent earned more than $80,750” (“Occupational Outlook Handbook,” 2012-2013).
The typical job of a probation officer is overseeing the offender and making sure the offender is not a danger to the neighborhood and to ensure the rehabilitation of the offender. “Probation officers and correctional treatment specialists typically do the following: evaluate offenders to determine the best course of treatment, provide offenders with resources to aid in rehabilitation, discuss treatment options with offenders, arrange treatment programs, supervise offenders and monitor their progress, conduct meetings with offenders as well as their family and friends, write reports on the progress of offenders” (“Occupational Outlook Handbook,” 2012-2013). According to “Occupational Outlook Handbook” (2012-2013) most of the probation officers work full time, and the schedule can be a little hectic. The craziness of the job requires a lot of strength from the probation officer and requires more out of the officer than the typical 40 hours a week. There are a lot of things as a probation officer you do, as you have to do home and employment checks, and property searches. There are also a lot of things that might frustrate a probation officer so being emotional stable is a must. The officer has to deal with the offender if the offender violates the terms of the release. Even though there is a high stress level associated with this career there is some moments that are rewarding experience for the probation officer making it worthwhile. Probation also helps the offender learn who he/she is and supports them get their old life back and make it better. This is rehabilitation at its best if it works.
Probation has often been called the prison without walls. This is a bad description, for probation and the prison stand in violent contrast at almost every point. This contrast indicates some of the reasons why I believe that the former is the more effective way of turning offenders from crime. In prison, the offender is place in an abnormal situation which by its very nature is destructive of moral and very often of character. Probation leaves him in a normal situation and surrounds him with influences calculated to improve his morale and strengthen his character. The prison takes away from his the necessity of thinking, of deciding for himself, of facing economic problems. Probation makes him stand on his own feet and requires him to face daily the usual problems of the work-a-day world. The prison, with rare exceptions, subjects him to mass treatment. Probation treats him as an individual. The prison shuts out the free community and places a high wall between its inmates and society. Probation seeks to break down every wall between the offender and the rest of the society and brings to bear on him all the available social resources of the community. (MacCormik, 1935, p.400 ¶ 4)
Probation handles almost every crime that is committed. Mostly probation is for first-time offenders who the judge presiding over that case feels that the offender could be rehabilitated. Two crimes that I found to be to my interest are the drug and alcohol abusers and the sex offenders. Many offenders who end up with probation instead of prison time are usually drug and alcohol abusers. The substance abusers are one of the most common of the offenders on probation, and these offenders tend to be not first time offenders.
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There has been recognized links to connecting criminal activity and drugs and alcohol together (Cunningham, A. J., Herie, M., Martin, G., Turner, J.B., 1998). With the connection being made between criminal activity and drugs and alcohol this has been an issue of concern for criminal justice. Treatment facilities have been shown to work and criminal justice needs to establish of an enlargement of addiction services to allow for the treatment of offenders with a history of substance abuse concerns. According to Cunningham, A.J. (1998, p.169) a field test study was “designed to evaluate the appropriateness and utility of an outpatient, addiction intervention for probation and parole officers in Ontario”, Canada. The treatment level was for people with a moderate to severe addiction. If these were more readily available to the offenders, I think the crime rate would come down. This program, the meetings were regularly scheduled, every two to three months. The meetings were documented to keep track of their progress and to let others know how it was working. The outcome was that almost every single person that went to the meeting said they would refer this to a friend and be willing to come to every single meeting. The drug and alcohol problem is worldwide. Law enforcement and the criminal justice system as a whole has tried everything they can think of to enforce the consumption of excessive amounts, but nothing is working. Maybe if we combat it in the lower level directly it would not be so bad.
The second crime I want to talk about that probably is not that well known that probation handles is sex offenders. Most of the public think that when the sex offender is caught that he is sent to prison, but this is not necessarily true “only a fraction of those who commit sexual assault are apprehended and convicted for their crimes; most convicted sex offender eventually are released to the community under probation or parole supervision” (Baerga-Buffler, M., Johnson, J. L., 2006, p.13). These offenders need the intensive supervision to keep the neighborhoods they live in safe. These officers need to have an extensive “knowledge about sex offender characteristics and types” (Baerga-Buffler, M., Johnson, J. L., 2006, p.13). This crime practically involves your entire time as a probationer officer. The officer has to know each sex offender as well. The officer has to know the patterns of the victim selection and the interest of the offender; this allows the officer to be able to view the risk that is right in front of them. According to Baerga-Buffler, M., and Johnson, J.L. (2006) the key to being a good probation officer for sex offenders is the specialized training. Training is the most important concept that these officers could have. They have to know what to look for when they are watching them or when they check in on them. If they do not have the training that is required something could go very wrong and the offender could commit the crime again. These offenders have to be properly trained and qualified to be able to be a probation officer for a sex offender.
To be a probation officer you have to be very prepared, education wise and emotionally, for what you are getting into. I think school gets you somewhat prepared, but nothing like being in the real world will prepare you enough. When I decided to become a probation officer, I just thought I would be handling this druggie kid or adult or the alcoholic. Never in my mind was I thinking a sex offender and I think most of the public does not think of that either. Probation officers do more than we think they do. I think the rational choice theory would be a good choice for a theory to choose for this agency to combat the crimes. I think the rational choice theory because in probation the offender has to follow a set of rules and if they do not they violate their terms and they will most likely be sent to prison. They have to make the choices to be good and not to violate the terms so they can stay on probation this is why I think the rational choice theory is a good pair for probation.
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