Probation officers write reports for the court that cover an offender’s background and criminal history. The officers also assist offenders in obtaining services designed to help them change their behavior.
“Some officers work with specialized caseloads, such as sex offenders or mentally ill clients,” Rice noted.
One aspect of probation that has changed considerably the past several years is how officers work with clients, Rice said.
“In the past, probation was primarily just monitoring offender behavior and then reporting violations to the court,” she explained. “Offenders would check in for appointments, report any changes in address and/or employment, and be on their way.
“Now, however, there is an emphasis on officers working closely with offenders to change their unacceptable behavior. Probation officers are now spending a good deal of time trying to teach and model appropriate behavior.”
The department works with offenders to develop a case plan that has specific goals and objectives designed to address specific problem areas that might lead to future criminal activity.
“For instance,” Price elaborated, “we know that offenders who are unemployed are at greater risk of committing another crime. Part of a case plan might be to fill out 10 employment applications per week and return these to a probation officer.
“In the past, we would have simply told the offender they needed to find a job. We now try to develop specific goals which are measureable and achievable. It takes a lot more time than in the past, but the results are better.”
When a client is first placed on probation, Rice said, someone in the department performs a risk assessment that places the client into one of three categories: high risk, moderate risk, or low risk.
Categorizing everyone by their risk level is somewhat of an indicator as to how likely they are to re-offend,” Rice said. “Clients who are high risk are required to report to their officer more often than clients who are low risk.”