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Probation and Parole: Supervision

Social Work Or Law Enforcement?, Casework Supervision Versus Brokerage Supervision, Casework Supervision, Brokerage Supervision

Probation and parole agencies share one particular and significant function: they provide supervision of offenders in the community. After an offender has been granted probation or parole, a probation or parole officer, hereafter referred to as "PO," is expected to supervise that offender in the community. The basic question remains: What is the purpose of supervision? To some, the function of supervision, drawn from the field of social work, is based upon the casework model. Based on this view, supervision forms the basis of a treatment program. The officer uses all the information available about the offender to make a diagnosis of that person's needs and designs a treatment plan. The treatment plan is an outline based on the needs of the offender (e.g., employment), and the PO's strategy for assisting the offenders in meeting their goal (e.g., enroll the offender in a job skills program).

Yet providing treatment is only one aspect of supervision. In addition, the PO is expected to maintain surveillance of those offenders who make up the case load. A classic definition of surveillance was provided by the National Conference of Parole: "Surveillance is that activity of the parole officer, which utilizes watchfulness, checking, and verification of certain behavior of a parolee without contributing to a helping relationship with him" (Studt, p. 65).

Although these statements indicate that the treatment and surveillance roles of the PO are almost diametrically opposed, many believe that they coexist as a part of probation or parole agency's mission. Many believe that the PO has two major responsibilities: to rehabilitate the offenders who are amenable to treatment, while simultaneously protecting society from those who prove to be dangerous.

Supervision of offenders usually involves both surveillance of offenders and assistance that will help the offender remain crime free in the community. While the term "surveillance" usually means simply watching in a police sense, it should be pointed out that a helping purpose can also occur. When surveillance is properly carried out, the offender can be continually sensitized to the possible results of a course of action that has made him or her vulnerable to breaking the law in the past. Just as an alcoholic or narcotics addict who is trying to change his or her life derives support from frequent contact with others who have successfully conquered their problems, so also can many offenders derive beneficial results from frequent meetings with the PO.


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Law Library - American Law and Legal InformationCrime and Criminal Law