About one-third of Indiana’s probation departments utilize either intern or volunteer programs. Many of the intern programs are created in partnership with an Indiana college or university, providing unpaid experience to criminal justice majors and other students interested in some aspect of corrections. This gives valuable experience to future probation officers and gives chief probation officers a preview of potential future hires.
The following is an example of an intern program currently operated by a medium-sized probation department. Most of the interns (5 per semester) are referred through the Criminal Justice Department at Indiana University, but students from other majors at I.U. and other universities are also accepted. Interns have to be enrolled in a course that provides them with college credit for their internship. Depending on the major, students are required to work between 150 and 200 hours per semester. Interns complete an orientation that includes the mission and goals of the department, organizational structure of the court system and the department, the role and responsibilities of a probation officer, ethics, confidentiality, and expectations. Students are assigned to a probation officer who will actually train and then supervise the internship. Intern duties include observing court proceedings, filing, data entry, meeting with low risk offenders, attending a staff meeting or department programs such as alcohol education class or the victim impact panel. Interns are not permitted to give court testimony, write pre-sentence investigations, or make field contacts. Prescreening of all interns is done by their perspective universities. The Probation Department conducts a criminal record check on all interns before allowing them to begin the internship.
Some probation departments rely on volunteers to help operate specialized programs. For example, volunteers can be used as tutors in literacy programs for offenders, as mentors to at-risk youth, as teachers in job/life skills programs, and even as attendants during ceremonies recognizing the achievements of probationers in special programs.
Chief Probation Officers should consult with their supervising judges before creating a new internship program or volunteer program.