John Augustus is credited with being the father of probation. A Boston shoemaker, Augustus spent his spare time observing what took place in the courts. Disturbed that minor offenders and common drunks were often forced to remain in jail because they had no money to pay off their fines, he convinced authorities to let him pay their fines and offered them friendly supervision. When the defendants later came into court for sentencing, Augustus would report on his progress toward reformation. Augustus efforts encouraged his home state of Massachusetts to pass the first probation statue in 1878.
Four more states had followed suit by 1900. Probation was thus established as a legitimate alternative to incarceration. The first juvenile court was in Cook County, Illinois in 1899. The enabling legislation eventually passed at state and federal levels not only enacted statutes that permitted probation, but eventually defined specific categories of offenses for which probation could not be granted. It is clear that the legislators enacting probation statues intended juvenile offenders and misdemeanants to be its beneficiaries, not hard core criminal offenders. Probation is a sentence serves while under supervision in the community.
Its goal is to retain some control over criminal offenders while using community programs to help rehabilitate them. Today, probation is the most common form of criminal sentencing in the United States. Those sentenced to probation must agree to abide by court mandated conditions of probation, with a violation of conditions possibly leading to probation revocation. Two types of conditions are general and specific. General conditions apply to all probationers in a given jurisdiction and usually require that the probationer obey all laws, maintain employment, remain within the jurisdiction of the court and possess no firearms.
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Specific conditions may be mandated by a judge who feels that the probationer is need of particular guidance or control. Depending on the nature of the offense, a judge may require that the offender surrender his or her driver’s license; supply breath, urine, or blood samples as needed for drug or alcohol testing. The judge may also dictate special conditions tailored to the probationer’s situation. The rapid growth of serious and violent crime in America during the 2980’s contributed to prison overcrowding and spurred a movement toward the increase in the use of felony probation.
Prison overcrowding and bulging jails forced the correctional administrators to take a close look at some other categories of felons for relief of an over taxed system. Front end solutions are alternatives sentences such as probation and intermediate punishments that include house arrest, deferred prosecution, electronic monitoring. Back end solutions refer to ways used to reduce prison populations, after the offender arrives in prison. Often viewed as “early out” or “extended limits” options: parole, shock parole, expanded good time credits to count against minimum sentence, work and educational furlough, prerelease to halfway houses.
Name: Essie Stevens Position: Probation Officer, San Bernardino, California College Attended: Howard University (BS, Criminal Justice) What criminal justice related jobs have you held? Straight out of high school, I took a job as a security guard at the local mall. I had no experience but they took a chance with me. I learned a lot from working there. After about 9 months, I left for college. After college, I pretty much had it in my mind I wanted to be a probation officer. I read on the internet that a small California town needed members of their team. I scheduled a meeting and I’ve been here ever since.
How would you describe the interview process? It actually was pretty easy. I stood before three members of the Department of Corrections. I was asked a few questions. I was hired on spot. To this day, I still do not know if it was because my resume was excellent or if it was because they were in desperate need of staff. Please describe your job I am a probation officer for about 115 men, women, and juveniles. My role is to keep tabs on their progress, make sure they are heading down the right paths. I attend court with most of them every 3 weeks to inform the judge of their progress.
I also see each of them at least once a week in order to ensure they are complying with all conditions of the program. What is the typical starting salary for this position? $17. 35 per hour What qualities or characteristics are most helpful for this job? You have to be strong and you must have a backbone. I’m not saying you have to be tough all the time but you need to let the offender know you may be nice but you’re about business. You have to be firm in making decisions. Do not let the offender walk all over you. It’s okay to have friendly conversations but always keep it professional. Get to know the offender.
I have found that it’s easier for the offender to open up to you when you show interest in their lives. What is a typical day like for you? From the time I come into work (9am) to the time I leave (10pm), I am either meeting with my new juvenile offenders or checking up on the older ones. I usually break for half an hour to review paperwork. What career advice would you give someone in college beginning studies? Pay attention. Trust me; you’re learning some real important material. Apply for internships; they will help in the long run. Network! Now is the time to get in good with as many professionals as possible.
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