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Education and Training of Probation Officers - A Critical Assessment

NCJ Number
Date Published
January 1979
8 pages
Since probation as a profession has failed to define its goals, any solid evaluation of the value of preservice education and inservice training for probation work has been and will continue to be hampered.
The need for graduate level education and frequent inservice training for probation on officers has been advocated for many years. Formal education as a prerequisite of quality probation service, and inservice training as a means of maintaining and improving that service has been theoretically recognized and 'documented' by national commissions and organizations and by a score of individual writers and researchers. However, review of these works finds no empirical documentation that education can improve overall performance. Furthermore, the review shows no empirical evidence that the costs involved to the individual, the department, the clientele, and the system is worth the benefit derived. Actually, the evidence available offers no support for the traditional theory. There is no support for any connection between education and competency in the human service field. There is no indication that a graduate level education in social work is of any greater value to probation officer competency than undergraduate study in any field. A graduate degree has been indicated to negatively afffect probation officer opinions for the first few years on the job. After a few years on the job, probation officer philosophy and performance have been shown to be generally the same for graduates and nongraduates. The effect of inservice training has been indicated to decrease as time on the job increases. It appears, thus, that probation as a profession should proceed cautiously before adopting any firm educational standards or inservice training programs, until more is known concerning the aggregate impact of such plans and until probation can determine if it is getting what it wants in terms of education, training, and probation performance. Sixty-two footnotes are provided. (Author abstract modified)

Date Published: January 1, 1979