Parole Officer Careers

In 2011, almost 1.1 million people were on parole in America. This is up from 2001, when almost 731,000 individuals were under parole supervision.  Since 1980, the fastest growing population of offenders in the judicial system has been probationers, while prison populations have also continued to grow, with U.S. prisons now housing more than 1.6 million inmates.

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Parole officers are primarily tasked with monitoring and rehabilitating state prison convicts.  According to the Reentry Policy Council, almost 77 percent of state prisoners reenter society through parole or some type of community supervision.

The Current State of America’s Parole System

This expansion in prison and parolee populations is fueling a hiring increase for parole officers in many jurisdictions, but it is also contributing to larger caseloads for current parole officers.  In the 1970s a parole officer averaged about 45 cases, but in recent years, this has escalated to almost 70 per officer.  The majority of parolees only meet with an officer once or twice a month for about 15 minutes each time.

Despite less direct supervision, the success rate of parolees has improved in recent years, with 2011 marking the fifth year in a row where success rates have increased. In 2006, almost 15 percent of parolees were re-incarcerated within their period of parole, but this has dropped to 12 percent in 2011. The average length of stay on parole increased from 18 months in 2010 up to 19 months in 2011.


Parole Officers in State Judicial Districts

The majority of parole officer jobs are found within state departments of corrections.  There are a handful of parole officer jobs at the federal level operating under the auspices of the U.S. Department of Justice.   The requirements for this job may vary considerably from jurisdiction to jurisdiction, however, virtually all jurisdictions require job candidates to have a bachelor’s degree at minimum.

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The most notable requirement – peace officer commissioning – is dependent upon state licensing boards.  Most states permit or require parole officers to carry and use firearms in pursuit of their professional responsibilities, but specialized training akin to police training is typically required.

Parole Officer Job Description

Parole officer jobs usually involve performing the following duties:

  • Collect documentation related to a convict’s incarceration and provide them to the parole board
  • Interview the offender to obtain insights whether they should be recommended for parole
  • Preset recommendations to the parole board during or outside of the inmate’s hearing
  • Schedule eligible offenders for their parole hearing
  • Manage information regarding the offender on parole data systems
  • Monitor the location and activities of parolees in the community
  • Assess the risks and needs of parolees prior to and following release
  • Utilize electronic monitoring devices to track parolee’s
  • Prepare and submit reports about parolees to the parole board and department of corrections
  • Notify police or parole board about technical, administrative or criminal parole violations

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