Dutifully fulfilling your obligations while on probation can be challenging enough. However, the pandemic has posed unprecedented obstacles. Apart from adjusting to new ways of completing one’s probationary period, other cautionary measures need to be taken into account. While the average American on probation serves just under two years, COVID-19 will affect just how soon one can return to normal life. Talking to your probation officer during the pandemic can be especially difficult with so many restrictions in place. To avoid missing this crucial connection, here are some ways that you can effectively reach out to them despite the pandemic:
Prepare for Your Meeting
You can meet with your probation, parole or bond supervision officer in person or online, depending on the COVID rules and regulations in your state. Whichever you agree on, it’s always best to come prepared. Have talking points ready beforehand. Not only will you remember what you need to discuss, but you’ll also sound more confident and self-assured. These meetings are essential for your probation officer’s assessment of your progress, so it’s best to take a few minutes to prepare.
Good communication skills can help build your relationship with your probation officer. And since circumstances are changing all the time with the health crisis, communication skills and expectation setting can help you navigate all the uncertainty. They are trained to communicate well with you, but communication should be reciprocal, and achieving what you want is only possible if you speak with your probation officer clearly. Studies have found that conversational communication is most effective in helping those on probation meet their goals, particularly finding a job. Preparing well will help you put together a good communication plan for your probation officer, and maybe even practicing beforehand will help you feel at ease.
When discussing details with your defense team, it’s important to be completely transparent. Remember that you share the same goals and therefore should be on the same side. It would be counterproductive to hide essential details from your probation officer since they've likely had adequate forensic psychology training, which equips them with a good understanding of your psyche as well as your case, even if you’re communicating online. Their line of work blends human development, sociology, and criminal justice together, which allows them to understand the nuances of such cases.
Your probation officer is there to help you avoid any run-ins with the authorities that may not be in your favor. For instance, many people on probation may be facing violations that took place during COVID lockdowns. This could lengthen your probation period, which will cause unnecessary stress and set you back. Ask questions as much as possible, and try not to worry if questions sound stupid; your probationary officer would rather have you ask than prep you on how to talk to the cops if you get into trouble later. Start by taking initiative during your meetings and discuss your goals or ask about any new requirements needed. Be as detailed as possible and take notes to ensure you get the answers you need.
COVID-19 may have set back our plans for good. This applies to most people, whether on probation or not. However, those who are waiting to complete their time have more at stake, which makes communicating with a probation officer all the more important during these times. Despite the difficulties, probation officers can help you get through the pandemic and through to the other side.