Jobs in criminal justice focus on some aspect of dealing with the offender. Investigators and police officers are engaged in apprehending and convicting. Parole and probation officers are responsible for monitoring the offender: in the case of the parole officer, monitoring following the offender’s release from prison. Probation officers oversee offenders who have been sentenced to probation in lieu of detention. There are also correctional treatment specialists, also known as case managers, who counsel offenders and help them develop plans for reentering the mainstream once they are released from prison.
Probation officers spend much of their time working for the courts. They investigate the case, write a pretrial report and recommend sentencing. They track the offender and provide the court with periodic updates on rehabilitation efforts, family situations, etc. Once an offender is released, the probation officer will meet with him or her on a periodic basis to check on progress.
Correctional treatment specialists work in jails and prisons, evaluating the offenders assigned to them, helping with the development of post-incarceration plans and giving reports and recommendations to parole boards and courts. They assist in developing treatment plans for inmates who will need counseling upon release and try to find a path to employment or some form of productive activity that will provide the newly released offender some direction.
Case loads for these types of criminal justice professionals depend on the jurisdiction. It is not uncommon, however, to see case loads ranging from fifty to one hundred individuals in the overcrowded, overburdened jurisdictions.
Police and detective work is familiar to all of us. What may be less visible is the technology they employ today and must know how to utilize. Officers may develop specialties in handwriting and fingerprints; chemical and microscopic analysis; manipulating computer data in the local and national crime databases; and electronic surveillance when a warrant is issued. Patrol duties may include bicycles or horseback, car or motorcycle, on foot or in a boat on the waterfront.
Sheriffs are county employees and will provide patrol functions in the areas of a county that are unincorporated. In addition, they are court bailiffs in most counties, providing security in the courtrooms and courthouses. Also in most counties the deputy sheriffs are responsible for operating the county jails.
State police officers are principally involved in patrolling the state’s highways. They are the agencies that monitor traffic data and work to keep accident rates down. They are often called upon to provide backup to local law enforcement in the case of natural disasters such as floods, fires and landslides that require both traffic control and law enforcement presence. Also at the state level are fish and game wardens that patrol hunting and fishing preserves and conduct search and rescue missions.
At the federal level there are criminal justice experts in the FBI, the DEA, the Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms Bureau which includes the Secret Service and the Federal Marshals who are responsible for security in the federal court system. There are probably a half dozen additional agencies or investigative bureaus in the federal system that are seldom seen but are an integral part of federal criminal justice.