Each of California’s 58 counties has a Probation Department; San Francisco has two — one for adults and a separate one for juveniles. The Probation Department, like the sheriff’s department, district attorney’s office, public defender’s office, and courts is a key component of the county’s criminal justice system.
The Probation Department deals with adults, juveniles, pretrial detainees, and sentenced persons. The mandate that a county have a Probation Department is set out in Welfare and Institutions Code Section 270. Penal Code Section 1203ff describes what probation is, does, and should be.
The Probation Department is administered by the Chief Probation Officer who is appointed, depending on the county charter, either by the Board of Supervisors or by the Presiding Judge of the Superior Court. The primary staff of the Probation Department are probation officers and institutional counselors who are sworn peace officers (Penal Code Section 830.5) with the powers of arrest, search, and seizure. Probation Officers are required to have 200 hours of comprehensive training prior to assuming their duties and 40 hours each year thereafter. This training is certified and paid for by the Standards and Training for Corrections Program of the State Board of Corrections.
The Probation Department performs the following functions:
- Investigates offender’s backgrounds.
- Makes sentencing recommendations to the court.
- Enforces court orders.
- Supervises sentenced offenders.
- Provides corrections and prevention programs.
- Operates custody facilities for detained and adjudicated juvenile offenders and, in some counties, sentenced adult offenders as well.
The Probation Department also recommends and collects restitution, oversees community service, and provides oversight of criminal diversion programs.