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Training Federal Probation Officers as Mental Health Specialists

NCJ Number
Federal Probation Volume: 68 Issue: 3 Dated: December 2004 Pages: 9-15
Risdon N. Slate Ph.D.; Richard Feldman LCSW; Erik Roskes M.D.; Migdalia Baerga LCSW
Date Published
December 2004
This article discusses the importance of training probation officers as mental health specialists.
Individuals with mental illness are more likely to come into contact with the criminal justice system than individuals without mental illness. Previous research has indicated that approximately 18 percent of offenders on parole, probation, supervised release, or conditional release have a need for mental health treatment. As such, it is imperative that probation officers have an understanding of mental illnesses and their treatments. While most probation officers are currently unprepared to handle the responsibility of effectively supervising mentally ill offenders, some agencies have developed specialized programs for these offenders. New York State has a flexible training program to prepare officers to work with mentally ill offenders; components of the training focus on understanding and responding to mentally ill offenders and those with co-occurring substance abuse problems, matching services to offender needs, and developing effective partnerships between probation and other service providers. The article underscores the need to train Federal probation officers as mental health specialists. While there are currently no standardized training courses available, there are three, 2-hour training modules available either through live broadcast or video. The responsibilities of these probation officers/mental health specialists include advocacy for mentally ill offenders within prisons, the court system, and under community supervision. It is critical that these officers have a firm understanding of the mental health services available in the community and also have an understanding of the clinical aspects of the offender so needs can be properly matched to services. Recommendations are made for a formal, standardized training curriculum for probation officers responsible for monitoring mentally ill offenders. References