Probation officers work in all prisons in the UK. Their central purpose is to liaise closely with the National Probation Service (NPS) at headquarters most local to the prison. Together, they help to decide which prisoners are most suited for release. Prisoners sentenced for a year or more are monitored closely by the Service. They place prisoners on licensed release and can only grant freedom if the clauses of the license have been entirely adhered to by the prisoner. They may be recalled to prison if they violate the terms after a fixed period.
Probation staff are normally based in the prison complex. They are there not only to risk assess the prisoner but to help and prepare them for their release. This includes giving them advice on how to maintain contact with their family and their community. They are also there to act as mediators between the prisoner and the decisions made in court, updating them on the progress of their sentence.
They also work with victims of violent or sexual crime and can consult with them about the conditions of the prisoner’s release as well as updating them on the progress of the sentence. Sometimes an officer is expected to manage approved premises (formally known as hostels – these provide accommodation for people on bail or probation, or offenders on parole), ensuring the safety of the site and the maintenance of its well being and residence. Each year, probation officers supervise around 225,000 offenders in total.
A typical day for the probation officer may involve writing up pre-sentence reports on people convicted of an offence for the use of magistrates judges and members of the jury, managing or enforcing community safety orders made by the courts (an example of this would be ensuring that offenders partake in work that benefits the community), or helping the offenders re-integrate into society. Other duties include working with public services such as the police or local authorities to aid local crime reduction and community safety. probation officers are expected to organise and help execute specialist programmes to prevent re-offence, and to deliver specialist reports that document the progress of the offender to parole boards or prison governors. This may also involve undertaking meticulous record-making and progress reports so strong written and verbal communication skills are essential.
A minimum of two or three A-levels (or equivalent) would be preferable for entry into the training field. Trainee probation officers are required to pass a Diploma in Probation Studies (DipPS).
Evidence of work within the probation field within the probation field, and evidence of work with offenders is essential.
People skills, written and verbal communication skills, problem solving skills.