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Congress laid the foundation for probation first. The Federal Probation Act of 1925 established a probation system in the U.S. courts and gave courts the power to appoint probation officers and to place defendants on probation. The Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts assumed responsibility for the probation system in 1940. The history of the U.S. Probation System is a story of men and women struggling to professionalize their work, to respond to formidable changes in the criminal justice process, to assume growing and seemingly ever-changing responsibilities, and to continually improve programs and 0 processes in the name of serving the court and the community better. The system did not develop and grow in a vacuum. Events, people, groups, legislation, and court cases influenced and shaped it.

Probation Officers

In the 94 federal judicial districts nationwide, U.S. probation officers play an integral role in the administration of justice. Probation officers serve as the community corrections arm of the federal court system. They provide to the court two important services: investigation and supervision. U.S. probation officers make an important contribution to the federal criminal justice process. Their mission is to investigate and supervise offenders whom the courts have conditionally released to the community on probation, parole, or supervised release.

By serving as the court’s fact-finder, controlling the risk offenders may pose to public safety, and providing offenders with correctional treatment, officers help ensure that persons previously convicted of crime obey the law rather than commit further crime.
Officers’ responsibilities require them to work not only with federal judges and other court professionals, but with U.S. attorneys, defense attorneys, Bureau of Prisons and U.S. Parole Commission officials, state and local law enforcement agents, treatment providers, and community leaders. Officers deliver services that benefit the court, the community, and the offender.


As community corrections professionals, probation officers preparing presentence reports possess and use skills from various disciplines to investigate relevant facts about defendants; assess those facts in light of the purposes of sentencing; apply the appropriate guidelines, statutes, and rules to the available facts; and provide clear, concise, and objective reports that will assist the sentencing judges in determining appropriate sentences, aid the Bureau of Prisons in making classification, designation and programming decisions, and assist the probation officer during supervision of the offender in the community.

Probation Supervision

United States probation officers are community corrections professionals who serve as officers of the court and as agents of the U.S. Parole Commission. They are responsible for the supervision of persons conditionally released to the community by the courts, the Parole Commission, the Federal Bureau of Prisons, and military authorities. Officers recommend and implement conditions of release and monitor offenders’ compliance with those conditions. Officers also work with offenders to facilitate their reintegration into the community as law-abiding and productive members of society.