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4.2: Officer Roles

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    Many jurisdictions combine the role of probation officer and parole officer into a single job description. In Gagnon v. Scarpelli (1973), the court had this to say of the duties of the such officers: "While the parole or probation officer recognizes his double duty to the welfare of his clients and to the safety of the general community, by and large concern for the client dominates his professional attitude. The parole agent ordinarily defines his role as representing his client's best interests as long as these do not constitute a threat to public safety." This statement suggests a dichotomy in the responsibility of parole (and probation) officers; these must look out for the best interest of the client as well as looking out for the best interest of the public. This fact frequently enters into politics. Liberals tend to focus on the treatment and rehabilitation of the offender, and conservatives focus more on the safety of the public and just deserts for the offender.


    Pin It! Gagnon v. Scarpelli Case Study

    Is a previously sentenced probationer entitled to a hearing when his probation is revoked? Gagnon v. Scarpelli decides this question

    From the perspective of the parole officers, they must perform law enforcement duties that are designed to protect the public safety. These functions very much resemble the tasks of police officers. They are also officers of the court and are responsible for enforcing court orders. These orders often include such things as drug testing programs, drug treatment programs, alcohol treatment programs, and anger management programs.

    Officers are often required to appear in court and give testimony regarding the activities of their clients. They frequently perform searches and seize evidence of criminal activity or technical violations. The courts often ask officers to make recommendations when violations do occur. Officers may recommend that violators be sent to prison or continue on probation or parole with modified conditions.

    There is ambivalence about the role of probation and parole officers within the criminal justice community. This has to do with an artificial dichotomy, often being characterized as police work versus social work. The detection and punishment of law and technical violations are characterized as the law enforcement role. The rehabilitation and reintegration of the offender are regarded as the social work role. Officers tend to lean more heavily toward one of these objectives than the other. Some officers embrace the law enforcement perspective and seek strict compliance with the law and conditions of parole. Other officers view themselves more as counselors, helping the offender reform, and brokering community resources to help resolve problems. Which model a particular officer exemplifies has many influences. The officer's personal beliefs, the dominate culture of the local office, the policy dictates of agency heads, and legislative enactments driven by political philosophies all play a role in shaping the working personality of each officer. The most effective officers are likely to be hybrids that fall somewhere in between the two archetypes.

    4.2: Officer Roles is shared under a CC BY 4.0 license and was authored, remixed, and/or curated by LibreTexts.

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