The work of Community Corrections employees revolves around monitoring defendants and other people under supervision and offering them access to programs and services designed to discourage future law-breaking behavior. In addition to the monitoring and program access, the emphasis with adult offenders and juvenile delinquents over the last 10 years has been focused on changing behaviors through the use of evidence-based practices. Community corrections programs, which are alternatives to confinement, include pretrial services, diversion, probation, parole, and community-based residential and non-residential programs (e.g., day reporting centers and halfway houses). It should be noted that in some jurisdictions, those who work in the community corrections arena are certified peace officers, and training reflects not only this role, but the roles previously stated (see pre-service training area for more detail).
Community Corrections agencies supervise most of the adult and juvenile correctional populations in local, state, federal, and tribal jurisdictions across the United States. To learn more about how Community Corrections is administered within these jurisdictions, click on the links below.
There are many different Community Corrections positions and roles within local, state, federal and tribal justice systems. Although certainly not comprehensive, the list below outlines some possible employment areas within the Community Corrections arena:
Given the vast number of employment opportunities within the Community Corrections discipline, required knowledge and skill sets can vary greatly. But generally speaking, people seeking a position as a Community Corrections practitioner need to possess a range of skills and abilities that will enable them to perform a complex job with multiple goals. Specific requirements for skills and abilities will vary from jurisdiction to jurisdiction. The following are some examples of desirable skill sets and abilities:
Many agencies desire applicants also have knowledge/skills/abilities in the following areas:
Prospective applicants may be required to take written, oral, psychological, physical and medical examinations.
Basic requirements for employment as a Community Corrections officer vary by jurisdiction and type of position. Agencies may require applicants to be at least 21 years of age and in the case of federal jobs, the Federal Employee’s Retirement Act of 1986, requires that federal employees must be under age 37 when hired.
Some positions in corrections may require that applicants take a civil service or merit system examination. In addition, many organizations require that a candidate participate in an oral interview. These examinations are intended to be a method to achieve a fair, effective and rational administration of government hiring practices. Read job posting announcements carefully to determine if a civil service examination is required and the dates and locations of these types of exams.
Below are guidelines surrounding typical qualifications for Community Corrections jobs. Please note, these are provided only for general guidance; refer to actual job postings to determine specific requirements.
Due to the physical nature and potential safety risks of the job, Community Corrections officers are typically in good physical and mental condition, possess standard (or correctable) vision, and have the ability to function effectively within a stressful environment. These factors are usually assessed via entry-level tests that help determine an individual’s interpersonal skills, judgment/logical reasoning ability, physical agility and more. Candidates may also be asked to undergo additional assessments, including pre-employment physical examination, psychological examination and a drug screening.
Also be aware that many hiring agencies may research your social media presence (Facebook, Google+, MySpace, etc.) for inappropriate activity, photographs and comments.
If you are a new graduate entering the workforce for the first time or a person looking to change careers, do not be overly concerned if you lack direct relevant work experience. Transferable knowledge and skills, as well as internships and/or volunteer experience are often viewed positively.
Please note, these are provided only for general guidance; refer to actual job postings to determine specific requirements. Job postings, and often online applications, background check forms and other required documentation, are typically posted on the websites of agencies.
There are no national standard training mandates for Community Corrections professionals; however, most new Community Corrections employees are provided with training by the employing agency to ensure they have the knowledge and skills necessary to effectively and safely perform job duties.
Typical training topics may include:
Most states, local, and tribal agencies have their own training standards and mandates for new and existing employees; some require new employees to attend training in an academy setting. Like employees in many other professions, Community Corrections officers often go through a probationary period before being considered permanent, full-time employees. During this period, officers typically receive on-the-job training.
In some jurisdictions, Community Corrections officers may be granted sworn peace officer status. Some sworn officers are authorized to carry a firearm and/or tasers. Further, officers may participate in law enforcement academy, or other certified training experiences, for firearms and tactical training. Such training and firearms certification is typically completed within the first year of employment.
Many Community Corrections agencies also provide officers with ongoing training and professional development opportunities regarding current research and trends affecting policy and practice to keep them up-to-date. These additional training hours may be provided through internal agency training programs, national or regional conferences, online training opportunities, or other special events.
Officers in specialized roles such as, but not limited to, supervising sex offenders, gang affiliated individuals, mentally ill offenders, or individuals placed on intensive supervision often receive additional training necessary to address the unique needs and challenges of these specific populations.
There are unique aspects to supervising juveniles in the community that may require special training. Among these are:
The type and comprehensiveness of training provided to new and existing Community Corrections professionals varies by agency; therefore, when seeking jobs in this field, be sure to inquire about the type of pre-service training and ongoing professional development.
While both probation and parole refer to supervision of adults or juveniles in the community, the controlling authority for each is different. If the authority over the offender rests with a judge, it is generally a probation sentence (or some other type of diversion program) that allows the offender to avoid a lengthy sentence of incarceration. The largest number of adults and juveniles under supervision in the community are on supervised or unsupervised probation.
Probation is a period of supervised release in the community under conditions established by the court. Failure to satisfy the conditions (which may include the requirement of reporting to a supervision officer, paying fines and restitution, attending treatment, and maintaining law abiding behavior) may result in stricter sanctions or revocation of the right to remain in the community. While the judge maintains jurisdiction over the sentence, the supervision or monitoring of the individual may be provided by a government entity or by a private provider under contract to the governmental entity or the court.
Parole is a period of transition back into the community, with conditions, following a prison sentence. It is called by different terms in different jurisdictions. It is ordered by a releasing authority (e.g., parole board or release officer) and not by the judge. This period may also be called Aftercare especially when referencing juveniles. The terms Supervised Release, Re-Entry, or Transition are commonly used as well. The paroling or releasing authority or state agency generally has oversight of the supervising agents and the offender conditions. Violation of the conditions may result in additional sanctions or a return to incarceration
The minimum educational requirements for adult and juvenile probation and parole officers vary from jurisdiction to jurisdiction. The vast majority of jurisdictions require at least a bachelor’s degree. Some jurisdictions prefer candidates have some level of previous related experience or knowledge of the job. A few jurisdictions will consider candidates with a minimum of a high school education and experience.
For many traditional jobs within community corrections agencies (e.g., probation or parole officer) agencies prefer candidates to have graduated with a major in criminal justice, psychology, sociology, social work, criminology, or a closely related field; however, it is not necessarily required. Relevant experience can often be substituted for a degree in one of the preferred educational areas. For jobs within community corrections agencies that are non-traditional (e.g., educator, financial officer, operations manager, information and technology staff), applicants will need to have the standard required education, knowledge, and skills and abilities that individuals in those types of jobs have in other industries/fields.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2010-11 edition, the median annual wages of probation officers and correctional treatment specialists in 2010 was $47,200. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $30,920, and the top 10 percent earned more than $80,750. For up-to-date general annual salary information visit the Bureau of Labor Statistics website at http://www.bls.gov/ooh/community-and-social-service/probation-officers-a.... Higher wages tend to be found in urban areas.
The amount and type of training that new probation and parole officers receive after they are hired varies among agencies. Some agencies provide around 40 hours of pre-service training; however, some agencies may provide more or less depending on the mandates or policies for a given agency. Some departments develop and provide training for their new hires internally. Other departments send their new hires to a pre-service academy, sponsored by their local, state, tribal, or federal government, after which a certification test may be required.
In addition to formal classroom training, probation and parole officers also receive on-the-job training from experienced supervisors and officers. They are often required to work for a probationary period of up to a year before being certified for a permanent position. In some locations, probation and parole officers require peace officer certification, which requires peace officer training including firearms certification.
The authorized carrying of concealed firearms by probation and parole officers varies by agency and jurisdiction. In some agencies, officers are mandated to carry firearms or they may voluntarily carry firearms. Often the types of offenders the officer supervises will determine whether or not they are authorized to carry firearms. Other jurisdictions specifically prohibit officers from carrying firearms. In addition, some jurisdictions approve the use of tasers, pepper spray and the use of handcuffs.
The answer to this question varies across jurisdictions; however, many probation and parole officers are designated as peace officers and therefore have arrest powers. In most situations, the arrest authority is limited to offenders who are under supervision of their agency and have allegedly violated the conditions of their release.
Probation and parole officers work with criminal offenders, some of whom may be dangerous. While supervising offenders, probation and parole officers interact with many other individuals, including family members and friends of the person under supervision. At times these individuals may be angry or upset, or may pose barriers that make it difficult to interact. Often probation and parole officers are required to conduct home and employment visits and may be assigned to work in high-crime areas.
Probation and parole officers should be provided the necessary training to effectively and safely work with resistant and difficult individuals. Many agencies provide training that specifically addresses safety concerns, such as de-escalation strategies and self-defense skills.
Probation and parole officers supervise probationers and parolees through personal contact with individuals and their families. Many officers meet probationers and parolees in their homes and at their places of employment or schools. Probation and parole officers also work in partnership with various community organizations that provide needed services for the individuals they supervise such as job training, substance abuse counseling, sex offender treatment, domestic violence counseling and mental health services.
Probation officers spend much of their time working with the courts. They complete investigations for the court, write presentence reports and formulate sentencing and release recommendations. They are also required to testify in court concerning an offender’s compliance with the terms and conditions of their sentence and when necessary, prepare violation reports for the court.
Parole officers perform many of the same duties as probation officers with the additional responsibility of reporting parolee violations to the designated releasing authority. Pretrial service officers conduct pretrial investigations, the findings of which help determine with offenders should be released before their trial and supervise them while awaiting the next court activity.
An officer’s activities are typically divided between time in court, time in the office meeting with offenders and completing necessary administrative tasks, and time in the field conducting home contacts, employment checks and meeting with community agencies that provide services to individuals on his/her caseload.
Probation and parole officers may work as a part of a team or a unit. In some settings, each officer may have a partner. In smaller jurisdictions, officers may work in one or two person offices and may have to travel relatively long distances to meet with their assigned offenders.
This is often not a 9-5 job. Probation and parole officers work a 40-hour week; however, they may be required to work evening and weekend hours, may have “on-call” responsibilities and may need to respond to after-hour situations.
Agencies are committed to retaining well-qualified employees and accomplish this by promoting from within whenever possible. Advancement is primarily based on experience and performance. A graduate degree, such as a master’s degree in criminal justice, social work, or psychology, may be helpful or required for some career advancement opportunities.
The 2010/11 Occupational Outlook Handbook reports that employment of probation and parole officers is projected to grow by as much as 19 percent over the next decade. In addition to openings due to growth, many openings will be created by replacement needs, especially those resulting from the large number of current officers who are expected to retire in the foreseeable future.
There are no special licenses required to work in this field; however, some jurisdictions may require certain types of certifications such as passing a test following an academy training program or a probationary period. If the agency requires or allows officers to carry firearms, certification is required to carry a firearm.
There are no age restrictions for most probation and parole officer positions in state, local or tribal agencies. However, those seeking jobs as probation and pretrial officers in the federal system can be no older than 37 years old at the time of their appointment.
Yes, there are numerous opportunities for internships. Agencies make their own decisions regarding internships and the nature of the internships they provide. Since most of these are government agencies, paid internships are rare. Review the agency’s website or call an agency that interests you to determine if internships are an option and how to secure an appointment. Also consult with your academic advisor as they often work with local community corrections departments to arrange internship opportunities for students.
Another option is to determine if an agency has a volunteer program that would be a fit for you. If you are a student, check to see if your department or school has an internship coordinator who could be of assistance.
Basically, the formal requirements of a position are similar regardless if your interest is in working with adult or juvenile populations. However, courses in delinquency, adolescent psychology or child development would be very helpful. Having experience working with adolescents is always beneficial.
Experience can be an important variable when seeking a position in this field – with some agencies even requiring a minimum level of experience working with a similar population. Where experience is not formally required, being able to list relevant employment or volunteer experience could give you an important edge when competing with other candidates.
Employers may look for people with experience demonstrating they can communicate well (verbally and in writing), work with people from diverse backgrounds, cope with a stressful working environment and handle multiple tasks simultaneously.
It depends. Some agencies have hiring restrictions based on past criminal records. Felony convictions will most likely be a disqualifier, although not universally. Agencies often look at misdemeanor convictions individually and make decisions based upon the nature of the offense, how long ago the offense occurred, and the number of prior offenses. Read the job posting carefully to determine if there are any factors that would preclude you from consideration.
There are many other career options in community corrections, including:
Check the following:
Not necessarily however, some tribes have enacted a Tribal Employment Rights Code. Tribal members can apply through their Tribal Employment Rights Office (TERO) to ensure preference in employment consideration. A certified copy of your Tribal I.D. or C.I.B. (Certificate of Indian Blood) may be required when submitting applications.