Ethical Dilemmas Facing Probation Officers

Probation officers, critical decisions, a daily basis
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Probation officers ensure community safety by providing appropriate supervision of criminal offenders assigned to their caseloads. When ethical dilemmas arise, probation officers must act appropriately to avoid compromising the integrity of the community supervision system.

Difficult Work

According to the U.S. Department of Labor, probation officers are required to meet many court-imposed deadlines, which contribute to heavy workloads. Extensive travel and fieldwork may be required to meet with offenders who are on probation or parole.

Enforcing Rules

Sworn to serve either the executive or judicial branches of government, probation officers have an obligation to ensure that rules imposed as conditions of probation are adhered to throughout the period of community supervision.


Probation officers are called upon by other agents of the criminal justice system to report the status, progress or past history of offenders they supervise. Any falsification or misrepresentation on the part of probation officers could alter the outcomes of various legal proceedings.

Financial Profit

Probation officers are often required to collect various fines, fees and victim restitution monies from offenders they supervise. This presents an opportunity for a probation officer to personally gain by not accurately reporting or properly depositing the collected funds.

Reducing Monetary Temptation

Probation officers who are compensated at a salary level consistent with their education, experience and difficulty of responsibilities are less likely to succumb to financial pressures to be unethical.

Reducing Opportunity

Organizational structures that provide additional internal or external observation of individual probation officer activities, coupled with periodically reassigning caseloads to different officers, present a defense against unethical behavior.

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