Trending Topics

Collateral contacts are essential in community corrections

These individuals are a valuable source of information for your case file

Electrician and customer signing invoice

Collateral contacts are people, often third parties, who confirm a client’s home address, employment and other details.

visualspace/Getty Images

The term “collateral contacts” is rarely mentioned in field or home visit reports. However, it deserves more attention. When visiting clients in the field, there are many actions to take. Field or home visits can provide a wealth of information, but unfortunately, this aspect is frequently neglected.

What are collateral contacts?

Collateral contacts are people, often third parties, who confirm a client’s home address, employment and other details. Probation officers frequently use them to verify the information clients provide about their home and work. These contacts can be family members, extended relatives, employers, current or past landlords, neighbors, school educators, officials, and individuals not living in the client’s home.

Great source of information

Collateral contacts are valuable sources of information for your case file. They help confirm details provided by clients during intake or office visits with the probation officer. Often, they are the most reliable information sources about a client. The insights from collateral contacts can aid in creating effective treatment and intervention plans. It’s not unusual to visit a client’s home and not make contact with them. Therefore, reaching out to a collateral contact during these visits should be a standard procedure to ensure you gather information. Contacting neighbors, for example, can be particularly insightful; you might be surprised by the valuable information they provide.

How to obtain a collateral contact

During probation intakes, probation officers often ask for names and phone numbers as references from clients. These references are considered collateral contacts. Whether through face-to-face interviews, office visits, home visits, or teleconferences, probation officers should continually update these contacts’ information. But their efforts shouldn’t end there. When visiting a client’s home, officers should also speak with neighbors to add more collateral contacts to the case file. The more collateral contacts available, the more prepared officers are, especially if the client absconds. These contacts are crucial starting points for tracking down the client.

Making contact with collateral contacts

When initiating contact with collateral contacts, probation officers should introduce themselves by providing their name, title, and the department they represent. If accompanied by a partner, the lead officer should introduce the partner, allowing them to continue with their specific duties. Officers should ask questions to assess if the contacts know the client well enough to be included in the client’s case file. After the interaction, officers must document all information provided by the collateral contact in the electronic case management system, including the contact’s name, phone number, and relationship to the client.

How to extract information

One effective strategy that always worked for me involved using a clipboard and a field contact sheet. While inquiring with a collateral contact about whether the client still resided at a specific location, I would gather information. To conclude my conversation, I’d ask, “Can I get your name and number for the report?” This approach consistently prompted the collateral contact to provide the information needed. It worked every time.

What do they need to know?

Collateral contacts only need to be aware of the visit’s purpose. When gathering information from a collateral contact, I simply inform them that I’m seeking to verify home residence and/or employment. It’s unnecessary to share details about the client’s case with them.

Safety is always a concern

Probation officers should avoid entering the homes of collateral contacts. All interactions with collateral contacts can occur outside the home or through telephone communication. Officers should also prevent collateral contacts from accompanying them back to their unit. For officer safety, it’s crucial to approach collateral contacts with the same caution as with clients.


Author’s’ note: I would like to thank all of the members of the United States Marshals Gulf Coast Violent Offender & Fugitive Offender Task Force, for all of their assistance and guidance in my pursuit of enhancing the training of community corrections officers, parole officers, and probation officers. Correspondence concerning this article should be addressed to Leo Perez; e-mail

Leandro “Leo” Perez, Jr. is a Unit Supervisor for the Hidalgo County Community Supervision and Corrections Department. He received a Bachelor’s Degree in Criminal Justice from the University of Texas-Pan American in 2004. He is also a 1999 graduate of the University of Texas at Brownsville Police Academy.

Before coming to the Hidalgo County C.S.C.D, he was employed as a Security Manager under the Federal Protective Services contract in the Southern District of Texas. He came to Hidalgo County C.S.C.D in September of 2005 as a community supervision officer. He served as a line officer for four years before being assigned to the United States Marshals Violent Offender Task Force.

He is the creator of the P.O.S.T (Probation Officer Safety Training), D.E.P.O.T (Developmental & Educational Probation Officer Training) and S.T.O.P (Safety Training for Office Personnel) training programs. His training programs have been presented at various conferences throughout the state of Texas. In 2003, he was one of the recipients of the Simon Property Rose Award for his role in the emergency evacuation of the La Plaza Mall Shopping Center, a 130,0000-square-foot shopping center located in McAllen, Texas. In 2016, he was the recipient of the Texas Probation Associations Judge Terry L. Jacks Award for his significant contributions to the community corrections profession. In 2023 he was the recipient of the Texas Probation Associations Sam Houston State University Award, for his scholarly contributions to the community corrections profession.