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What is the Difference Between a Probation Officer and a Parole Officer?

Correctional officers are employed to supervise individuals in the corrections system. This includes the supervision of individuals at time of arrest, through the court systems, during probation, throughout incarceration and during parole. Probation and parole officers are both specialized types of correctional officers.

But what is the difference between the two?

Probation is a sentence ordered by a judge, usually instead of, but sometimes in addition to, serving time in jail. Convicted individuals who are given probation are allowed to live in the community for a specified period of time under the supervision of a probation officer. In general, probation officers supervise convicted criminals who are not sent to prison.

Parole is the conditional release of a prison inmate after serving part, or all, of his or her sentence. The inmate is given permission to live in the community under supervision of a parole officer. If the inmate violates the conditions of parole they may be sent back to prison. Parole officers monitor newly released inmates to see that the conditions are met.

Probation and parole officers can, however, have overlapping roles in prisons, depending on the size and structure of the system. Both require some background in sociology and counseling, and are responsible for the rehabilitation of convicted individuals so that they can reenter the community.

How to Become a Probation or Parole Officer

If you are interested in becoming a probation or parole officer you will at least need a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice, social work, psychology, or another related field. Many probation and parole officers also go on to earn a graduate level degree.

Learn more about Corrections Degrees

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