Probation and parole officers supervise a wide variety of criminal offenders. With the expense and overcrowding caused by incarceration, released supervision can often be a viable alternative to custody. According to William D. Burrell, former New Jersey Chief Probation Officer, at the end of 2003 approximately 4.8 million adults were under community supervision, which composed about 70 per cent of all offenders.
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Probation vs. Parole
Theoretically, probation and parole should be effective. Probation deters an offender from further criminal activity while using a possible future prison sentence as a negative consequence for failure to comply. Parole supervises the released convict while allowing him to transition and integrate back into the community. Staying out of jail or prison would seem to be an effective motivator. However, this is not always the case. According to Mr. Burrell, there are six strategic trends which will enhance the effectiveness of community supervision: collaboration and partnerships, results driven management, re-emergence of rehabilitation, specialisation, technology and community justice.
Collaboration and Partnerships
Community supervision personnel are now realising that some of their best resources are experts in related fields. These include mental health personnel, medical professionals, career counsellors, substance abuse interventionists and even police officers. Specialised services such as domestic violence and sex offender counselling can directly deal with the issues which initially contributed to the criminal activity.
Results-driven management emphasises the need for probation and parole officer accountability. Measurable outcomes are determined, and poor performance is re-evaluated so that offender supervision will be effective. All aspects of community supervision are scrutinised from time management to programs to employee participation.
The initial premise of community supervision was that people could change and that probation and parole could assist in effecting that change. One of the main programs implemented in 1989 was the Drug Court Program, which made it acceptable to talk about addiction issues. Rehabilitation and addressing addictions that contribute to criminal behaviour were now the focus, as opposed to punishment. This model has been extremely successful and has been used across the country.
Criminal offenders can be divided into several different categories, including sex crimes, domestic violence, drug/alcohol, mental health, white collar, gang members and juvenile offenders on adult caseloads. Through specialisation, officers have an opportunity to better focus their time and energy on understanding the behaviours specific to their caseload.
Through computer software, global positioning satellites, ankle bracelets and other advanced technology offender supervision is enhanced. This allows probation and parole officers to more effectively and easily perform their jobs.
Community justice involves both the community as a whole and the victim of the crime. As a result, victims feel empowered, and their role is now an important and critical part of the rehabilitation of the offender. Communities can act proactively, assist in monitoring offenders and even assist in determining the disposition of a case.
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