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Liability Issues Affecting Probation and Parole Supervision

NCJ Number
Journal of Criminal Justice Volume: 25 Issue: 3 Dated: 1997 Pages: 211-222
K D Morgan; B A Belbot; J Clark
Date Published
12 pages
Courts are making probation and parole officers more accountable for the supervision and control of their clients, and civil liability these officers can incur in the performance of their duties is addressed.
Probation and parole officers have a responsibility to the client and to the community and may be sued for malpractice or negligence for failure to provide adequate and appropriate supervision. Recent court decisions have upheld the civil liability of probation and parole officers for injuries caused by their clients to third parties because the supervising officers failed to provide the required standard of care in their professional performance. Courts consider several factors in assessing civil liability in negligence claims involving a third party: whether a special relationship existed between officer and client that required the officer to control the client's behavior; whether the officer's actions were ministerial (professional tasks required by law) or discretionary; whether the officer was aware of threats to harm specific victims; and whether the officer failed to properly supervise the client or warn a potential victim of the dangerous behavior of a probationer or parolee. Approaches used by the courts to assess liability should be incorporated in probation and parole department training programs. Liability is discussed in terms of identifiable victims, discretionary versus ministerial functions, foreseeability of injury, immunity for State tort violations, and immunity for Federal civil rights violations. 29 references


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