A Career in the Probation Service

A Career with the Probation Service? Read on…

Outside of being an entrepreneur, I’ve worked in the probation service for over 8 years and many people have seldom ever heard of it yet it plays an integral part within the judiciary system. The justice sector consists of 5 bodies which include the Police, Crown Prosecution Service, courts, prisons and finally the probation Service.

What does probation do?

When someone is convicted of an offence at court they will need to appear for sentencing where the courts hand out a punishment. Prior to sentencing they meet with a probation worker who assesses their offence and looks to create a report to inform the court on their available options; this is called a pre-sentence report.

Prison is sometimes inevitable dependent on the offence but for some crimes they can be managed in the community with the Probation Service supervising them and this may form part of the pre-sentence report recommendations. As part of their sentence they may get unpaid work hours, a group-work programme or simply regular meetings with a probation worker who assesses their progress against specific goals to reduce their risk. Examples of goals include securing housing, improving employment prospects or even ensuring a person has regular drug tests.

Prison is primarily seen as a form of punishment however probation’s role is to focus purely on rehabilitation and sometimes the best way to do this is within the community. To ensure an offender complies with their order it needs to be supervised and this is the role of probation; to ensure an offender adheres to the conditions of their court order..

What type of work does probation do?

Probation is split into different teams which specialise in different areas. Some teams are specifically designed to be “case managers” where they supervise offenders to ensure they complete their order properly. Other teams may deal with all the unpaid work element people have on their court orders and then report back to the case managers on their offender’s progress (attendances and non-attendances for example or bad behaviour).

I work as part of the interventions team which delivers cognitive behavioural therapy. This is all based on group-work programmes that tackle the offending behaviour through changing beliefs offenders may have around crime. The goal is to get them to see the harm it does on others as well as themselves and to teach them skills to reduce their risk of reoffending. Other teams work in prisons as well as the courts or even education, training or employment related roles to help offenders back into work.

What skills do you need to work in probation?

Strong communication and people skills and a good level of self-control is a must. This sounds easy but is very difficult as the job is very people focused; requiring you to often tell people things they don’t want to hear. You work with people with all sorts of crimes and it’s your job to ensure they are managed in a way that protects the public. This means challenging them on any concerns you have, addressing any ongoing bad behaviour as well as always acting in a professional way.

You are also required to manage your own workload with little supervision so the ability to work independently is a must. An understanding and sensitivity to diversity is also paramount. Offenders come from all walks of life and often with complicated histories and respecting this while also balancing the role and carrying out the court order with integrity is a fine balancing act. Every decision made make must be carefully thought and in the interest of public safety.

How can you join the probation service?

I’ve worked with many students on Loopa who are now studying psychology at university to break into careers within the justice sector which include the probation service. Despite popular belief however you don’t need a university degree to become a probation worker although something related to the field (social sciences) no doubt helps during the interview process. The minimum requirement is often GCSE grades which allows you to apply to become a probation service officer (also known as a probation practitioner). To be a probation officer you normally need to complete a special degree in criminal and community justice which is usually paid for by the employer. This is above any other degree’s you may have already although some relevant ones can allow you to reduce the study time by a year.

You can google your local area with the keyword “probation jobs” e.g. “Leicester probation jobs” and often you may get the local authorities website. The service may advertise jobs in the local paper too which is how I joined myself.

About the Author

Saj Devshi is an entrepreneur by night and crime fighter by day. You can catch him on his blog here or on twitter @sajdevshi