The Basic Probation/Parole Officer Training Course is scheduled to graduate its first class of 63 participants Thursday, with 14 going to parole and 49 going to probation. Parole Board Chairman Albert Murray and Department of Corrections Commissioner Brian Owens are set to address the graduating class.
“We see this as another good example of interoperability between two agencies who share the same mission,” said Department of Corrections spokeswoman Gwendolyn Hogan.
Probation and parole have many similarities, in that both allow offenders to stay out of jail or prison as long as they comply with a specific set of conditions. Parole is granted by the parole board and gives offenders rules to follow in exchange for allowing them to serve the rest of their sentences out of jail. Probation is run by the Department of Corrections in Georgia, is imposed by the courts and is generally an alternative to a prison sentence.
Dustin Butterworth, 26, works for parole in Walton and Newton counties and is part of the inaugural class of the new program. He said it’s really helpful to also learn how probation officers work, especially because offenders often pass from parole to probation and some are even under the supervision of both at the same time.
“We each deal with the same exact offenders and we each have the same exact goals,” he said. “I kind of wonder how this has never happened before.”
The eight-week course includes training in supervision techniques, investigation procedures, intervention strategies, criminal and Georgia law, policy and procedure, interview skills, physical fitness, arrest procedures, defensive tactics, computer interaction and firearms qualification.
Michael Nail, state executive director of parole, said the decision to create a combined training program stemmed from suggestions from officers in the field and the realization that there was already enormous overlap between the instruction for the two jobs. Officers with the dual certification will be able to transfer between the two agencies without having to complete a new training course, which means an officer who transfers can get to work supervising cases more quickly and with no additional training cost to the state.
“Now they can all operate under the same certification, so you really have a multiplier,” Nail said. “We all go into the same housing projects and the same parts of the community where you have probationers and parolees, so this makes it so much easier to partner these officers up, and they can go out there together.”