Who are Probation Officers? | Western Cape Government

Who are Probation Officers?

(Western Cape Government)

This short article explains the role of probation officers in the criminal justice system.


Probation officers are social workers who carry out work in the fields of crime prevention, treatment of offenders, care and treatment of victims of crime, and working with families and communities. Probation officers are appointed by the Minister of Social Development, and are officers of every magistrate's court.

Over the past decade in South Africa the importance of probation officers has grown. The Department of Social Development has therefore strengthened probation services by increasing posts and training.

The University of Cape Town, Rand Afrikaans University, the University of Port Elizabeth, Fort Hare and Rhodes University all offer post-graduate degrees in probation practice. Probation practice is drawn from number of disciplines including social work, criminology, penology, criminal law, psychology, and sociology. A plan is underway to establish a professional board for probation work.

Probation work is currently carried out in terms of the Probation Services Act No. 116 of 1991 which provides for the establishment of and implementation of programmes to combat crime and for rendering assistance to and treatment of both victims and offenders. An amendment to the Act was finalised during 2002. This amendment inserted certain definitions for terms such as "diversion" and "restorative justice", and provided for assistant probation officers. It also established home based supervision as an alternative to pre-trial detention, and provides legal recognition for reception, assessment and referral centres.


The content on this page was last updated on 5 December 2018