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J is for Juvenile Probation Officer

by Vermul Pewee
July 2016

Vermul Pewee, a student at the University of Minnesota, was an intern in the Labor Market Information Office this past summer as part of her participation in the Urban Scholars Program.

Probation was introduced to our justice system in the 1850’s by John Augustus, the “Father of Probation,” who’s recognized as the first true probation officer. Probation permits a convicted criminal to live among community members instead of serving jail time. This occupation has provided the courts with the means to regulate the lives of convicted individuals as they try to live peacefully among other citizens. Probation requires the convicted individual to live by strict court-ordered regulations and under close supervision. This supervision is where the role of Probation Officer comes in. They are there to ensure the offenders perform their community service, avoid restricted places and people, and refrain from excessive drinking and using illegal drugs. Often court mandated biweekly meetings with the assigned probation officer are required. These officers are responsible for monitoring and working with those on probation to help prevent them from committing new crimes and breaking the terms of their probation. Juvenile Probation Officers play a very critical role in our society as they are more than just officers. Their role is not only to help convicted youth meet the terms of probation, but to help them become model citizens and to help keep them out of the prison system.

Work Culture

This job falls under the umbrella of Social Worker. Therefore, as much as those in the field may be looking forward to lots of direct interactions and being fully engaged with clients, lots of logistics and behind the scene paper work are involved in this field. Most officers work full time. But in this highly demanding job there are often additional on-call responsibilities these officers take on. When on call, they’re expected to respond to or address situations that arise within 24 hours. This includes both dealing with the individual in need and the mountain of paperwork that follows, all contributing to the excess hours of work.

What to Expect

Juvenile Probation Officers are primarily government employees, currently at a median wage of $26.21 per hour. It is a great job field, not difficult to enter after receiving a Bachelor’s degree in a variety of Social Science areas such as criminal justice and social work. However, not just everyone holding such degrees can serve as a probation officer. There are competency exams, multiple drug tests, and an extensive background check applicants must pass to be considered for this position.

Officers are not simply tossed into the position and expected to perform the tasks asked of them automatically. Most State governments or the Federal government sponsor training programs often for up to one year, ensuring their employees are fully equipped to succeed as juvenile probation officers. Training may include onsite visits to the homes of current convicts on parole and bias workshops. Training can only prepare an officer for this position to a certain extent. There are important qualities that one must possess to succeed in this field of work:

  • Having the ability to access fully the needs of their clients and develop a strategic plan
  • Interacting effectively not only with the probationers, but their family and others performing services for them
  • Accurately weighing cost and benefits to help guide probationers in the right direction
  • Being able to take on multiple cases and tasks at the same time
  • Being able to cope with hostile individuals and otherwise upsetting circumstances

It’s All About Minnesota

The tables below show that Minnesota, with 1,810 probation officers of the national total of 87,950, makes up 2% of the national total employed probation officers. A Probation Officer is not an easy job. Finding truly dedicated and well-rounded employees to take on the many tasks it requires is not easy. The Bureau of Labor Statistics forecasts Probation Officers job growth of 4%, which is slower than average, but within that national statistic Minnesota holds its ground by employing exactly 1/50th of the nation’s total Probation Officers. It was interesting to find that although the Southeast Balance of State Region has only 110 probation officers which is not even 1 percent of Minnesota’s total, but they pay highest mean wage of $30.62.

The state employs the largest number of Probation Officers and, with 2.19 percent of its total employees, Probation Officer, leads as the highest concentration of jobs in the entire occupation. Highest employment and concentration is important, but for those who are seeking out the highest paying industry for a probation officer, local government with an average wage of $26.59 is the best place for you.

 

Expected Tasks

Meet with probationers in an office or at the probationer’s residence

Evaluate probationers to determine the best course of rehabilitation

Provide probationers with resources, such as job training

Test probationers for drugs and offer substance abuse counseling

Monitor probationers’ contact with law enforcement

Conduct meetings with probationers and their family and friends

Write reports and maintain case files on probationers

Source: BLS Occupational Outlook

 

Probation Officer Distribution

Area

Employment

Mean Hourly Wage

Southeast Minnesota

110

$30.62/hour

Minneapolis-St. Paul-Bloomington,
MN-WI MSA

1,190

$29.78/hour

Minnesota

1,810

$28.90/hour

U. S.

87,950

$26.21/hour

Source: OES data tool

 

Highest Paying Industries: Probation Officers

Local Government

$26.59

State Government

$25.93

Private Residential Care Facilities

$23.06

Elementary and Secondary Schools

$21.34

Psychiatric and Substance Abuse Hospitals

$18.85

Source: DEED Occupational Employment Statistics

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