Are We Relying Too Much on Probation Officers?

It is no secret that our nation’s prisons and jails are massively overcrowded, but the question remains as to whether this has had any impact on potential sentences of recent offenders.  With laws on the books like California’s “three-strikes” rule and Texas sending everyone to the electric chair, it is a wonder that probation officers are still in existence; however, despite news reports, there is a large number of judges who are opting out of prison sentences and are instead returning criminals to the streets with only a few years’ probation.  Is this justice or is this just an easy out for the government?

Probation officers are put into place to protect our justice system and ensure that minor offenders are not imprisoned, but still will not commit the same offense.  However, this system can sometimes be abused when probation is given out too readily for felonies that deserve at least a few months of prison.  We’ve now reached an era where some major felony offenders will only receive a year’s worth of probation before they are released back into society.  Not every criminal court is like this, but with the growing amount of prisoners, many judges assume that probation is a better alternative than spending millions of dollars to create a new prison unit.  It is confusing that our crime rates have supposedly skyrocketed in recent years – this is why the prisons are so overcrowded, but these statistics do not take into account the rising population and the rising numbers of law enforcement who are able to apprehend criminals.

Probation officers, it seems, are one career that is one the rise because of the increasing amounts of probation that are given to defendants in criminal court.  While probation does not mean that defendants are necessarily allowed back into society without any consequences, it is a much less severe punishment than a few years of jail time.  There are several courts throughout the country that are now known for their lenient policies and the number of defendants they release on probation.  Criminal justice is a confusing system to work through, but any one of us is able to determine that a person who is guilty of a felony offense should be given at least a few months of prison time before they are put on probation.  However, we have become increasingly reliant on this probationary system, and until we find some way to increase the space within our prison system, judges will continue to give probation to defendants who commit lesser felonies.  I for one, do not feel as safe knowing that people who commit burglaries and robberies will only be given a probation officer instead of prison time because of this overcrowding.