Probation officers supervise criminal offenders (also called defendants) who are sometimes dangerous and resistant to intervention. These probation officers must also deal with family members, law enforcement personnel, victims, service providers and the community in general. The job is stressful in nature. The decisions that probation officers make can impact the lives of defendants and their families. As such, the probation officer faces a variety of problems unique to the position.
Based on the nature of the probation officer's job, he will encounter difficult offenders. The defendants must comply with a long list of court-ordered terms. Specific areas of offender resistance include: failure to work, submit to drug testing, pay fines, report to the probation officer, and complete counseling; moving or leaving the state without permission, using alcohol or drugs, possessing a weapon, associating with known criminals and other violations of terms. When probationers commit a new crime, they pose a risk to the community, which increases supervision difficulties for the probation officer or results in the judge sentencing the defendant to prison.
The paperwork that the probation officer must complete is technical and time consuming, especially for new officers. If the paperwork is completed incorrectly, offenders may be released from custody due to technicalities, delays in processing the paperwork may occur, or the judge may admonish the probation officer for failing to perform her job duties correctly.
Although many encounter personal conflicts at work, the dynamics differ for probation officers. A supervisor may disagree with a probation officer's recommendation to the judge on a specific case. The judge will then make the final decision regarding the offender. A judge may place a probationer back on probation without additional sanctions after a failed revocation hearing, which occurs when the defendant violates probation terms or commits a new crime. The probation officer must comply with the judge's directives and supervise an offender who may resent being taken back to court. This can increase the resistance level of a defendant who is already angry about being on probation.