Probation and parole matters in Rhode Island operate under the control of the Division of Rehabilitative Services (DRS) of the state’s Department of Corrections. Adult probation/parole officers in Rhode Island work for the DRS’s correctional supervision program.
In July 2010, there were 76 probation/parole officers in Rhode Island. Probation/parole officers can do a better job of supervising the offenders and helping them to get services when they know the community well. Because of this, these professionals are assigned to work in one of eight regions in the state, one of which is Newport County, which has its regional offices in the city of Newport.
Requirements to Become a Probation/Parole Officer in Newport County
Applicants who seek jobs as probation/parole officers in Newport County are required to be at least 21 years old and no older than 37. A bachelor’s degree in one of these fields is required:
- Criminal justice
- Business administration
- Public administration
- Human relations
- Social work
Once officers have been hired, they learn how to become probation/parole officers in Newport County through formal training from the state’s Department of Corrections. Certification is required to work as a probation/parole officer in Rhode Island.
Probation/parole officers receive continuing training once they are established in careers. For instance, officers were trained in the warning signs of human trafficking in 2012.
The Function of Probation/Parole Officers in Newport County
Longstanding goals of probation/parole officers in Newport County are to protect the public and help the offenders reintegrate into society as productive, law-abiding individuals.
The criminal justice system in Rhode Island has been increasingly recognizing the importance of helping probationers or parolees to become reestablished in their community and avoid returning to jail. Rhode Island has been a pioneer in the field of prisoner reentry with Governor Doanld Carcieri having been the first governor in the country to sign an executive order on this topic.
There are many ways in which probation/parole officers in Newport County help their clients to become reestablished in society. 70% of the inmates of the Department of Corrections in Rhode Island have been found to be functionally illiterate. While there are programs that help this during incarceration, training programs for probationers and parolees are valuable in helping them learn the skills they need to succeed in society.
Substance abuse treatment is another important aspect of the probation and parole of many individuals in Newport County. Drugs are involved in about 80% of the prison cases in Rhode Island. Probation/parole officers help their clients to get treatment and monitor them to ensure they keep taking part in these programs.
Probation/parole officers can start to limit their frequency of contact with individuals that appear to be succeeding in their probation or parole. 1,117 of the 24,823 people on probation and parole in January 2013 were under conditions of such low supervision. Slightly greater than 18% of these cases were in Newport/Wakefield.
Newport as a Model for Partnering with Law Enforcement
The Department of Corrections has been setting up local reentry councils in areas with high numbers of returning offenders. These councils involve probation/parole staff, elected officials, local service providers, and law enforcement personnel. They serve to reduce the barriers to successful reentry into society by helping those on probation or parole to find affordable housing, health care, and jobs.
Since Newport is one of the cities in Rhode Island with a high number of returning offenders, the local reentry program in this city served as the pilot for the program throughout the state. Part of the reason for its success is thought to be the city’s small size and close proximity of services to the probationers and parolees.