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THE JOB PROBATION OFFICERS and PAROLE AGENTS have common goals--to protect the public. Both are responsible to assist ex-offenders to adjust to life in a free community and to prevent future criminal acts. These officers work towards returning law offenders to useful, productive lives. The offenders may be on probation or parole depending on their legal status. A law offender who is given a probationary sentence may or may not have served time in a county jail. Once released, the offender is put on probation or county parole, depending on the offense and prior record. Offenders who have served time in a state or federal correctional facility are placed on parole when released. Both types of offenders are given a conditional release under the supervision of a Probation Officer or Parole Agent for a specific length of time. The legal status of the law offenders also determines which level of government will be responsible for providing the officers to supervise the offenders. Counties only hire Probation Officers. The State of California only hires Parole Agents who work for either the Department of Youth Authority or the Department of Corrections. The federal government employs combination Parole-Probation Officers to assist clients who come under the jurisdiction of Federal District Courts. Federal officers work almost exclusively with adult offenders, while county and state officers are assigned to either adult or juvenile case loads. Probation Officers are officers of the courts and in this capacity they perform pre-sentence investigations and prepare reports on their clients. They develop plans to assist their clients return to a free society. They also have the responsibility of enforcing court orders that at times require the officers to make arrests, perform searches, seize evidence, and arrange for drug testing. Parole Agents with the Department of Corrections, the Youth Authority, or the Federal Justice Department report directly to their respective Parole Boards and have the main responsibility for the supervision of their clients. Parole Agents develop recommendations and plans for their clients before they are released. They arrange for services, such as employment, housing, medical care, counseling, education, and social activities. When a parole violation or criminal behavior is alleged, Parole Agents conduct investigations that can include interviews, surveillance, and search and seizure. They also arrange for drug testing. WORKING CONDITIONS Probation Officers and Parole Agents work with criminal offenders who may be dangerous. The areas in which they work may also be dangerous. In some counties Probation Officers are required to carry a firearm. All Parole Agents are required to carry a firearm. They may have to make arrests, conduct searches, and perform drug tests. Probation Officers may have to appear in court occasionally to represent their department, present probation reports, and to respond to questions concerning probation recommendations. Parole Agents attend Parole Board hearings and testify in the presence of their clients. Many clients have feelings of despair and powerlessness and are in need of guidance. As an important aid in their work, it is necessary for officers and agents to get out into the community to develop a knowledge of community resources and become familiar with culture, customs, traditions, and values. Parole and Probation Officers work with people in all age groups, despite assignment to juvenile or adult matters. For example, officers working with juveniles deal constantly with adults, parents, school authorities, and welfare workers. Officers with an adult case load may find themselves making arrangements for the families of their clients. Probation Officers spend much of their time conducting dispositional or pre-sentence investigations of adults and juveniles. They interview offenders, families, victims, witnesses, police officers and others concerned to assess potential for successful probation and to evaluate progress while on probation. They may recommend prison sentences. Probation Officers are also responsible for electronic monitoring of their clients and operating community correction programs such as work furloughs. County Probation Officers who work with juvenile offenders may be assigned from 60 to 150 cases. Adult case loads may be more than 2,000. The amount of time spent in travel and field work varies, depending on assignment and work location. In large cities, most officers work in clean, well-lit, well-ventilated surroundings. In rural areas, frequent travel is necessary. The usual case load of Parole Agents is about 80 to 120 active cases. Because regular visits must be made to clients, agents are out of the office a great deal, and they have to cover a much larger geographical area than that served by Probation Officers. Like Probation Officers, Parole Agents are subject to calendar deadlines. Pre-parole reports, for example, must be prepared and ready for hearings by parole boards. Both Probation Officers and Parole Agents use computers to access and analyze client information. EMPLOYMENT OUTLOOK According to the California Probation, Parole, and Correctional Association there are approximately 5,500 Probation Officers employed statewide in 1998. According to the State of California, Department of Personnel Administration, there are approximately 1,800 Parole Agents working statewide in 1998. Most county agencies surveyed indicated that they expect the number of Probation Officers to grow due to the prison overcrowding and the use of intermediate sanctions, such as electronic monitoring, day treatment, and work furloughs. The Department of Personnel Administration also indicated that there will be a need for additional Parole Agents over the next few years. The actual number of openings will, however, depend on the funding for these agencies. WAGES, HOURS, AND FRINGE BENEFITS Salaries in county probation departments throughout the state vary with the size of the county and with the amount of education and experience required. Starting salaries for county positions range from $2,200 to $2,500 a month with increases to $4,800 a month or more. State Parole Agent I begins at $3,299 a month and can reach $4,642 a month. Federal Probation-Parole Officers at the GS-9 level start at $2,465 a month with increases to $3,204 a month. The normal workweek is 40 hours. However, Probation Officers and Parole Agents are on call 24 hours a day. Fringe benefits include paid vacations, sick leave, and pension, health, dental, and life insurance plans. ENTRANCE REQUIREMENTS AND TRAINING Good physical condition and emotional stability are needed in this work because the work is sometimes rigorous. There is often considerable pressure from deadlines and heavy workloads. In addition, Probation Officers and Parole Agents must work with upset, antagonistic, and/or manipulative offenders and their families. For both Probation Officers and Parole Agents graduation from an accredited four-year college or university with a major in one of the social sciences is necessary. Good people skills, writing skills, and analytical skills are also needed. Prospective employees are usually given a written and oral examination. Probation Officers are also required by State law to pass a psychological test. They are also required to complete, within their first year of employment, the 200-hour basic core Probation Officer Training Course certified by the California State Board of Corrections. Parole Agent applicants must pass a physical abilities test, have an additional year of supervised casework experience, and complete a four-week training session at the Academy in addition to the degree. Federal positions require a year of graduate level courses in addition to the degree. ADVANCEMENT Most Probation Officers begin as trainees and receive on-the-job training for at least six months. After six months, Probation Officer trainees can seek a position within a division of the probation department as a Deputy Probation Officer I. Depending upon the employer, after one year's experience, candidates may apply for Deputy Probation Officer II positions. Deputy Probation Officer III positions usually require three years of experience. A Parole Agent I with the State of California can move up to the Parole Agent II and III levels, and Probation and Parole Officers with the Federal Justice system can promote to the GS-11, GS-12, and GS-13 levels. FINDING THE JOB Interested applicants should apply directly to the personnel offices of the federal, state, and county agencies. In addition, job openings can be found on the Chief Probation Officers of California web site at http://www.cpoc.org, where all county probation departments may list their job openings free of charge. ADDITIONAL SOURCES OF INFORMATION California Probation, Parole, and Correctional Assn. 211 Lathrop Way Suite M Sacramento, CA 95815 (916) 927-4888 State Personnel Board 801 Capitol Mall M.S. 15 Sacramento, CA 95814 (916) 653-1705 RELATED OCCUPATIONAL GUIDES Social Workers No. 122 Correctional Officers No. 220 Law Enforcement Occupations No. 457 OCCUPATIONAL CODE REFERENCES DOT (Dictionary of Occupational Titles, 4th Ed., 1991) Probation and Parole Officers 195.107-046 OES (Occupational Employment Statistics) System Social Worker-Except Medical 273050 Source: State of California, Employment Development Department, Labor Market Information Division, Information Services Group, (916) 262-2162.Note: This is NOT a job opening. The purpose of This California Occupational Guide is to provide you with useful information to help you make career decisions. If you are searching for a job, go to:
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