Current Situation of the Volunteer Probation Oﬃcer System
Volunteer probation officers are volunteers who support rehabilitation of those released from prison in the community and who play the most important role in Japanese offenders rehabilitation system. Reflecting the growing awareness towards re-offending prevention of recent years, people’s expectations for and interest in volunteer probation officers are increasing more than ever. On the other hand, the number of volunteer probation officers has been decreasing for five consecutive years since 2009 (47,914 persons as of January 1, 2014), partly due to the influence of changes in social situations such as dilution of human relationships in the community. Seeking stable securing of volunteer probation officers for years to come is a major challenge for the system.
Eﬀorts of the Ministry of Justice
In light of these circumstances, the “Study Group on Improving Infrastructure of the Volunteer Probation Officer System” was launched in March 2011, with the goal of reinforcing the infrastructure of the volunteer probation officer system that would lead to the future. The study group consists of the active volunteer probation officers and academic experts. Over a year of a wide range of discussions, the group submitted, in March 2012, a report summarizing the outcomes of their discussions to the Rehabilitation Bureau of the Ministry of Justice. The report contains specific recommendations on how the infrastructure of the volunteer probation officer system should be improved, from the following wide-ranging perspectives: (1) securing of candidates as volunteer probation officers and fostering of volunteer probation officers; (2) improvement of the activity environment of volunteer probation officers in line with changes in society; (3) strengthening of collaboration with the community; (4) active roles of volunteer probation officer organizations; and (5) reconstruction of the offenders rehabilitation structure in disaster-affected areas.
The Ministry of Justice has taken the above-mentioned recommendations of the study group as heartfelt voices from volunteer probation officers, therefore, striving to put their recommendations into practice.
For example, the Ministry has started to administer the compensation system for physical damage suffered by volunteer probation officers in FY 2012, as well as has taken measures to enable all local volunteer probation officers associations to hold the “Study Group on Candidates as Volunteer Probation Officers” designed to secure persons suited for volunteer probation officers from a wide group of people since FY 2013. There are a total of 345 “Offenders Rehabilitation Support Centers” nationwide as of FY 2014; the centers are the base of activity for volunteer probation officers and will be improved and expanded toward the future.
Moreover, the Ministry of Justice is making efforts to reduce the burdens of volunteer probation officers’ activities; widely disseminate the helpfulness of the officers’ activities in order to increase the attractiveness and challenge; and to obtain understanding and cooperation of local residents and the relevant authorities and organizations.
The volunteer probation officer organizations and the national government will work together towards the stable securement of volunteer probation officers, so that Japan can sustain its world-class volunteer probation system for years to come.