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Probation and Parole Officer Careers in Pennsylvania

The Pennsylvania Board of Probation and Parole (PBPP) has recently reported a decrease in probation recidivism rates. The PBPP one-year recidivism rate is 20 percent, a decrease from 24 percent just 5 years ago. The three-year recidivism rate is 42 percent, which is a decrease of nearly 8 points over the past 5 years. The PBPP also reported that the number of individuals on probation who successfully completed their sentence has increased 15 percent from FY06/07 to FY11/12. During this time, nearly 7,000 parolees successfully reentered society.

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From offices located in Harrisburg, parole agents with the Pennsylvania Board of Probation and Parole serve as sworn peace officers that may be called upon at any time of the day or night. They work alongside local law enforcement personnel, social service agencies, and treatment providers to monitor the behavior and activities of parolees, ensuring that they remain in compliance with all the conditions of their parole. The Pennsylvania Board of Probation and Parole is responsible for granting and revoking parole, and also releases individuals from parole once they have served their sentences and satisfied all requirements imposed by the Board.

Different Professional Title, Same Career

Unlike other states, Pennsylvania does not use the term “probation officer” for its probation and parole officer careers; instead, the term “parole agent” is used to describe the agents found within both the probation and parole process.  The Pennsylvania Board of Probation and Parole refers to probation and parole officers in Pennsylvania as the “backbone of the probation and parole process.” These professionals provide both supervision and counseling services to offenders, and are tasked with upholding the law and ensuring that the public is safeguarded from criminal activity during the transitional period between the time an in-mate is released from incarceration till they successfully complete court-mandated parole.

How to Become a Probation or Parole Officer in Pennsylvania

Education and experience requirements for those interested in probation and parole officer jobs in Pennsylvania are quite stringent, as all candidates must have at least ONE of the following:

  • Two years of experience as a parole investigator or institutional parole assistance, as well as an associate’s degree in sociology, law enforcement, criminal justice, legal studies, psychology, or a related field; OR
  • A bachelor’s degree in social work, criminal justice, law enforcement, legal studies, psychology, or a related field; OR
  • An equivalent combination of training and experience

All candidates must take and pass a written civil service examination, which is a 2 ½ hour test consisting of 120 questions.

As a condition of employment, candidates looking at how to become a parole agent in Pennsylvania are expected to:

  • Have a valid Pennsylvania driver’s license
  • Pass a medical examination, including a urinalysis drug screening
  • Take and pass a psychological examination

All parole agents in Pennsylvania must complete at least 40 hours of training each year to meet agency standards.

The Various Roles of Parole Agents in Pennsylvania

In addition to working in the field, parole agents may serve as institutional parole agents, those professionals tasked with assisting parolees’ with parole planning and the completion of all documents related to their parole. Institutional parole agents generally work in the state’s correctional institutions.

Further, parole agents in Pennsylvania also provide assistance to parolees in a number of areas, including housing, employment, and substance abuse treatment.

Probation/ Parole Officer Training Guidelines

All new parole agent recruits must complete the Basic Training Academy (BTA). During the first six months of employment, all new recruits are required to attend training programs that are designed to emphasize their professional developments. Just some of the topics covered include:

  • Advanced aids
  • Compact rules
  • Firearms  qualification
  • Interview techniques
  • Self-defense
  • Use of force policy training

All new parole officers must also complete an on-the-job training program, which includes four phases, all of which are designed to address a common cluster of skills and knowledge. An exam is administered following the completion of each phase.

All parole officers are required to the complete at least 40 hours of training on an annual basis, according to agency standards.

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