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What does a Federal Probation Officer do?

By Amanda Dean
Updated Mar 03, 2024
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The primary role of a federal probation officer is to supervise individuals who have been convicted of federal crimes. They help ensure that their charges do not commit further criminal offenses and assist them in making positive educational, career, and family choices. These officers also conduct pre-sentence investigations to help federal judges determine the best punishment for the convicted. They carefully research the circumstances of the crime, including the offender's family situation, the nature of the crime, the impact of the crime on the victim, and other intervening variables.

Supervision of federal criminals is the primary duty of a federal probation officer. They meet with their probationers regularly, usually monthly, to determine if they are meeting the conditions of their release. They often conduct drug and alcohol screenings to check for violations. They may contact the families, employers, and treatment providers of their their assigned probationers. In the event of a violation, they may need to arrest the offender and bring the offender back before a judge. Some probation officers may help direct offenders to community programs and assistance that can help keep them from committing future crimes.

These professionals are also responsible for monitoring offenders on house arrest. To do this, the probation officer visits the home to ensure that it is secure. They install a monitoring device on the telephone lines and place an ankle bracelet on the offender. Home visits are among the most dangerous task for these officers.

Officers keep detailed records of their meetings with probationers. They log every call or contact to or from people associated with the case. These records are official legal documents that may be called into court after a violation or when a judge reviews the case for release from probation.

A federal probation officer also helps United States District Court judges to determine the the best sentence a convicted offender should receive. They visit with victims, officers, families, and employers to determine the circumstances of the crime. With this information, they give recommendations that fit existing guidelines. This task must be done by a detail-oriented professional.

The role of a federal probation officer is a challenging and often thankless one. The nature of the work is somewhere between police detective and social worker. It can be difficult to define success for a federal probation officer since he must both try to help his charges successfully complete their probation sentence, but also detect violations. These professionals have more contact with the arresting officers or judges in the probationers' cases and can often feel the brunt of their anger and frustration.

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Discussion Comments

By anon996484 — On Sep 06, 2016

How does an offender report a probation officer who is constantly doing things to lock a person back up?

By anon313725 — On Jan 14, 2013

To know what federal probation is about, one must experience it for themselves. The officers are instructed to use psychological warfare to get the offenders mentally unnerved. Even if they have done nothing wrong, an offender can be brought in for arrest based on a violation and because you are already a convicted felon. What are the odds of anyone listening to you and your innocence, no matter the nature of the offense?

The probation, for me at least, was worse than actually doing prison time, but it is designed that way. Hey, as they say "it is what it is," and you have no choice but to try and roll with it.

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