29 November 2023

Corrections Officers, Case Managers, Probation Officers - what’s the difference?

One of the questions that we get asked from applicants is around the differences between some of our key roles - in particular, Case Managers, Probation Officers, and Corrections Officers.  

Across these roles, the core goals are similar - to reduce reoffending, improve public safety and support people to turn their lives around - but the responsibilities, environments and stakeholders are different.  

So, in this article we’ll describe some of those differences, as well as highlight the similarities.  

If you’re weighing up a career at Corrections, we hope you find it useful in helping you decide if any of these roles could be for you. 

Their role in safety and security  

Keeping people safe and reducing reoffending is at the heart of our work, and Corrections Officers, Case Managers and Probation Officers each contribute to this in unique ways. 

Corrections Officers’ role in safety and security is probably the most obvious, but what does that look like on a day-to-day basis? 

Corrections Officers are at the frontline of interactions with people in prison - they are observing the prison environment, keeping a look out for issues, and providing the initial de-escalation or management of situations. They also carry out routine security tasks, such as searching cells. 

For Probation Officers and Case Managers, their role in managing risk is similar, but they do so in different settings - Case Managers help to manage risk for people in prison, Probation Officers do so for people on community-based sentences like parole, community work or home detention.

Probation Officers carry out risk assessments, take action if someone isn’t complying with the conditions of their sentence, and provide advice to others in the justice system (eg the courts, to support their decision-making in sentencing). Case Managers are similar in this regard, also managing risk and writing reports to the NZ Parole Board for decisions on parole.

For all three roles, their work in rehabilitation also contributes to safety and security, by helping to reduce the likelihood of reoffending. 

How they support rehabilitation 

So, how do each of these roles support rehabilitation?

Case Managers lead the rehabilitation and reintegration of those in prison. They seek to understand the unique situations of each prisoner in their caseload, then act as the connectors for different services, programmes and people who can help them to work towards change.  

For Probation Officers, the role is once again very similar to Case Managers - the key difference being that they work people on community-based sentences or orders rather than in prison. Like Case Managers, their work involves understanding what may be behind a person’s offending, then connecting with whānau and community organisations to support rehabilitation and reintegration. 

Corrections Officers’ role in rehabilitation looks slightly different. They work alongside Case Managers to support the rehabilitation of prisoners, as well as provide day to day motivation and encouragement. They spend the most time with people who have offended out of all these roles, creating ongoing opportunities to have interactions that can have a positive influence.  

Our workplace environments and partners

It’s not just the roles and responsibilities that differ, it’s also who you work with and where. 

Naturally, Corrections Officers’ work mainly takes place in the prison, though Officers may escort offenders to places in the community, such as the courts. They mostly work with other custodial staff, such as nurses and case managers, and may also engage with whānau.

Probation Officers and Case Managers both work with similar stakeholders: community and government organisations, iwi and whānau. It all depends on the circumstances of the people on their case load - on any given day, they could be engaging with the Salvation Army, Oranga Tamariki, or the Ministry of Social Development, to name just a few.  

However, there are different dynamics in their work environment. Case Managers offices are located inside the prison - they go to see the people they work with in a unit or interview room within the prison site. Probation Officers working in the community, on the other hand, often have people “report” to a service centre where their office is located. They do home visits, and engage with employers and other organisations to support the best management of an individual’s risk while in the community. 

Moving across roles 

If you’re unsure which of these roles could be for you, it’s worth keeping in mind that there are always opportunities to move into other positions or areas.  

Having experience working on the frontline, in whatever role, is a significant advantage for a different frontline role. We’re a large, complex organisation, and there is a lot to learn around working with people who have offended, so having some experience helps. Plus, many of the core skills and traits that we look for in these roles are similar - people skills, great communicators, alignment with our values and good situational awareness.  

So, if you’re curious about any of these roles, check out our current vacancies or get in touch.  

Ready to make a move?

Start your journey - check out the a list of our current opportunities then apply online today!