Probation officers work with adult offenders, supervising those who are serving non-custodial sentences as well those released from prison on licence. They conduct offender risk assessments in order to protect the public, and ensure offenders' awareness of the impact of their crime on their victims and the public.
They manage and enforce the conditions of community orders, imposed by courts. Community orders are an alternative to a prison sentence and can involve the offender in activities such as unpaid work (also known as community payback), programmes aimed at changing offenders' attitudes and behaviour and alcohol or drug rehabilitation.
Probation officers interact with offenders, victims, police and prison colleagues on a regular basis. They also work closely with local authorities, social services, housing departments and a range of independent and voluntary sector partners.
Probation services are provided by 35 probation trusts in England and Wales. Scotland and Northern Ireland have their own separate system of justice. For more information see:
Typical work activities
Work activities vary but typically involve some or all of the following:
- providing pre-sentence reports for court on people charged with an offence, which help magistrates and judges to decide what sentence should be passed;
- carrying out risk assessments in order to protect the public for further possible offending;
- managing and enforcing community orders made by the courts, which may involve participation in group programmes (usually run by specially trained probation officers), ensuring offenders attend supervision with a probation officer, and/or ensuring offenders undertake unpaid work that benefits the community (if offenders do not cooperate, the probation officer will arrange their return to court for a further punishment);
- delivering specialist programmes to change offenders' attitudes and behaviour in order to help reduce further offending;
- providing specialist reports to prison governors and parole review boards that help determine whether a prisoner should be released and, if so, under what conditions, e.g. curfew/tagging order or probation supervision;
- undertaking meticulous record keeping and review processes;
- working with prisoners during and after their sentence, helping them to reintegrate into the community;
- liaising with victims of serious crime to keep them informed about a prisoner's progress in prison;
- gathering feedback from the victim(s) about the impact of the offence and any fears and concerns about the proposed release of the prisoner;
- working with other agencies to help local crime reduction and community safety, e.g. police, local authorities, courts, health services, substance/misuse/drug services, voluntary agencies and youth offending teams;
- managing approved premises (formerly called hostels), which provide accommodation for people on bail or probation or offenders on parole;
- attending court, sometimes to testify about written recommendations in reports.