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Institutional Probation and Parole Officer

What is an institutional probation and parole officer?

These officers, part of the Probation and Parole Bureau and known as IPPOs, are charged with facilitating placement of inmates in communities when they leave prison and are placed in the intensive supervision program, on conditional release, in prerelease centers, on parole or probation. They provide the coordination necessary for the Board of Pardons and Parole, prisons, probation and parole officers and prerelease centers to expedite the transition of inmates from an institution to a community.

How do they differ from other probation and parole officers?

Traditional P&P officers work in field offices around the state and supervise offenders already released to the community on probation, parole or conditional release. IPPO's clients, on the other hand, are incarcerated or in lockdown programs. Within a facility, IPPOs are concerned with inmate behavior while they are inside as it can affect the inmate's opportunities for release and under what conditions they are released. They also are concerned about the inmate's criminal history as it relates to the prison programs for which they qualify and can help them transition them to the community.

Do IPPOs and traditional field officers work together?

Yes. They cooperate to be better informed about an offender's history on supervision and progress that he or she may have made in different areas. IPPOs often advise the field officers about programs the inmates are involved in while in a facility and answer any questions about offenders’ conduct that may arise. The goal is for a seamless transition from prison to community.

Do IPPOs receive different training than do traditional probation and parole officers?

No. All go through the same training, although IPPOs must familiarize themselves with the policies and procedures of the institutions in which they work

Where do they work and why do they work there?

An IPPO works with offenders who are serving time in correctional facilities. They work in such facilities because the task of preparing offenders for reentry to their communities cannot wait for an offender’s release; it begins when they enter the facility.

When do they begin working with offenders?

IPPOs begin working with offenders as soon as they come into an institution. They answer their requests for information and track their applications to various community placements that may have been made prior to coming to the institution. They also attend all the inmates’ initial classification meetings, explain to them the various options and timelines for community placement, and describe the proper procedures for applying.

As an offender nears release, how does an IPPO work with that person?

Once the offender is within 120 days of release or parole, the IPPO begins helping the offender develop an acceptable release plan that involves housing, employment, follow-up treatment, Social Security appointments, travel plans and mandatory registrations. If the plan is approved by an assigned supervising probation and parole officer in the community where the offender plans to go, discharge or parole paperwork is completed along with institutional paperwork so that the offender can be released. They work with the supervising officer to set up the offender's reporting date and time. They make sure paperwork is copied and distributed to the appropriate entities. IPPOs also work with the state Department of Justice regarding reentry paperwork and identification for offenders. IPPOs can be asked to help prepare pre-sentence investigations, fill in for P&P officers in the same area, and transport offender to treatment facilities.

What are their goals?

An IPPO’s goal is to help offenders move forward toward productive lives so they can become contributing members of their families and their communities. The ultimate goal is give offenders the tools to be successful in communities, reduce recidivism and make Montana a safer place to live for all.

Why is the work of IPPOs so critical?

IPPOs are the link between prison and the world outside of prison. They help offenders develop appropriate release plans and helps them understand how the system works. IPPOs ensure that proper policy and procedures are followed so offenders can be released. IPPOs do most of the paperwork for offender releases. They arrange transportation, housing and financial assistance and are an essential bridge between facility staff and the rest of the department.

When does their work with offenders end?

The work with offender never really ends. While they may not be incarcerated, some offenders may still contact an IPPO regarding programming they have done while incarcerated. Some just want to keep in touch with an IPPO who helped them in their transition to society.

In what other ways do IPPOs work with offenders?

They answer questions about DOC policy and about requirements of the department. IPPOs assist offenders in applying to college and when they need to contact their attorneys or the courts about warrants or misdemeanor court obligations. When asked, IPPOs will proofread offenders’ correspondence they plan sending to the court or their attorneys.

How do IPPOs work with other staff in prisons?

IPPOs work jointly with the case managers, classification staff, and medical and mental health staffs in setting up appropriate plans of release. If the mental health or medical staffs advise IPPOs of issues, the officers can help arrange outside assistance. This information is relayed to the Parole Board as needed and to traditional supervising officers investigating a proposed plan.

What kind of work do IPPOs do with community-based programs and services?

IPPOs locate and work with statewide and sometimes out-of-state community-based programs and services to obtain housing and/or treatment for offenders. The housing and other programs must comply with court judgments, community conditions imposed on an offender and Board of Pardon rulings.

What is the greatest challenge IPPOs face in working with offenders?

The greatest challenges are offenders discharging with no housing, employment or family support, and those offenders offered parole with no place to live. Inmates discharging without housing have to stay at a shelter until they can find jobs. If the released inmate is a sex offender, sometimes he does not even have the option of a shelter, because some will not accept sex offenders. These predicaments make it very difficult for offenders to comply with conditions of their release.

In what aspect of their work are IPPOs most successful?

Work is successful when inmates are released and become productive members of society and rejoin their families to benefit from their support.

What makes this job worthwhile?

Once in a while, an officer is thanked by offenders as they go out the door, telling IPPOs what a good job they do or that the offenders appreciate the help or being treated like they are still people. When a plan is approved and a date set for their release, the excitement on offenders’ faces is a light at the end of the tunnel for them. Sometimes officers receive letters or telephone calls from offenders telling them of a success; a job, a home, a life. That is the job’s true reward.