Probation-Probationer Relationships in Spotlight as Arrests are Made for Recent Offenses

There have recently been multiple instances of probation officers accused of inappropriate relationships with their probationers. Two probation officers, one in Kentucky and one in Pennsylvania, were arrested due to sexual exploitation of their probationers.

The Kentucky officer, John J. Zinni was charged with third-degree rape on September 11th. Third degree rape is not forced rape, but is used by the legal system to prosecute those who use positions of authority to sexually exploit those under it. Zinni was arrested after another corrections officer caught him in bed with the probationer in his home.

Investigators also found Samuel Thomas Bowman, a probation officer from Pennsylvania, with a woman in his state-issued vehicle on Thursday the 10th. He was initially arrested and sent to jail for Custodia Sexual Relations, which is a third degree felony. Those charges are pending as investigators work to find out more details about the nature of the crime; third degree rape may be considered a viable charge in this case as well.

These two cases highlight a danger that probation officers must be aware of: the penalty for coercing or partaking in sexual relations with a probationer is severe. Probation officers are trusted with the rehabilitation of previously convicted persons, some of whom were imprisoned for years. They perform important work, helping convicted person reacclimatize to society and become contributing citizens in spite of their criminal history. Choosing to exploit that trust and manipulate for force sexual favors from a probationer will not just ruin your practice as a PO, it could send you to jail for years.

It would be ironic if either of the charged officers were assigned probation after their sentences are given. Both Bowman and Zinni may end up on the other end of the probationary system after prison.