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Career Story: Probation Officer In The Federal Courts

Probation Officer In The Federal Courts

Job Title: U.S. Probation Officer

Type of Company: I work for the Federal courts.

Education: BA, Justice, American University •• MS, Criminal Justice, Northeastern University

Previous Experience: I worked with troubled adolescents who were referred from the state to a non-profit human services agency. Initially I worked as an outreach and tracking worker, then in an emergency shelter.

Job Tasks: My primary responsibility is to provide helpful information to the judges so that they can take all necessary information into account when sentencing a defendant in Federal court. Crimes that are adjudicated in Federal court are those which affect interstate commerce, such as drug and gun dealing, tax evasion and bank robbery. I meet with the defendant and his attorney to gather personal background information, then I verify it through various resources and contacts within the community. I also investigate defendants' criminal histories and their roles in the offense they're being tried for. Then, the Federal sentencing guidelines are consulted to assist in determining an appropriate range of sentence. Finally, a pre-sentence report is prepared for the Judge that summarizes all of the information. In preparing the pre-sentencing report, I have to remain objective and include information from both the prosecutor and the defense.

Best and Worst Parts of the Job: The worst part of my job is working with the families of the defendants who appear in our court. They are frequently secondary victims. Seeing children watch their parents in hand cuffs is not easy. The best part, however, is hoping that something I say or do has an impact on either the defendants and/or their families.

Job Tips: If you are interested in a career in the criminal justice system, it is not only important to obtain an education, but also to develop crisis intervention skills and interpersonal skills. You need to feel comfortable and confident in your own skin, as well as non-judgmental toward people and cultures that are different from your own.

Additional Thoughts: I was pleased to learn that the Federal judges in our system take many factors into consideration when sentencing a defendant. I was surprised by how much time and effort is invested into formulating an appropriate sentence that not only teaches the criminal a lesson, but also protects the community and makes victims whole.

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