Being a volunteer in the German Probation Service
This blog entry is written by Eva Egreder, research assistant on the CoPPer project and a volunteer on probation in Germany.
Volunteering can be crucial for communities as it can help to address social challenges and support vulnerable populations, fostering a more inclusive and compassionate society. Volunteers play a vital role in promoting community engagement and creating a stronger and more resilient community fabric by offering their time and skills. This also extends to volunteers within the probation service.
I myself started volunteering within the German probation service approximately a year ago, before my research assistant role with the CoPPer Project started. It was important to me to not only give back to my community but also spend my free time in a useful way where I felt that people needed me the most and I could contribute to the work I had already done. Especially my degree in Criminology and my extensive knowledge of bottlenecks within the German probation system incentivised me to get active and use the theoretical knowledge I had gathered.
To my surprise, volunteering in probation has exceeded my expectations in all the best ways. After sending out my application to a local organisation I was invited to a thorough interview – not only to make sure that I’d be a good fit but also to assess my desired areas of engagement. Since being accepted, I have gone through all the necessary stages of training which included an introduction to the organisation, a seminar on criminal theory in general and in relation to our own stereotypes, a seminar on setting interpersonal boundaries with beneficiaries and, lastly, a lecture on our legal standing and legal duties given to us by a long-time probation officer.
The organisation I am part of is the essential link between volunteers, like me, and the probation officers engaged by the court. If a probation officer has a potential need for a volunteer in a certain case, a contact is established with the head of the voluntary organisation. These requests for volunteers are extended to us and we are given the liberty to either offer our help or decline. Currently, I am working with three beneficiaries who have been assigned to me by our team leader. My work goes from helping with administrative work to being a social contact, helping with language barriers, being available in emergency situations or just grabbing a cup of coffee.
Our work in general not only consists of aiding beneficiaries but in continuous training, biweekly reflection meetings and additional learning opportunities, for example, visits to local prisons. This ongoing exchange of experience amongst us volunteers as well as permanent support through our team leaders has made this experience a fruitful and fulfilling one – one that hopefully spreads awareness all around Europe.