Legal Role-Play:

Probation Games


Lawrence Susskind and Susan Podziba

A set of three simulations developed for and used in training court probation officers in negotiation techniques.


Please note: you must order a copy (a.k.a. license/usage fee) for every person participating in the simulation in your course. This simulation has multiple roles, so you will be unable to complete your purchase without meeting the minimum quantity requirement of copies per role.

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PON Teaching Negotiation Resource Center

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Soft copy vs. hard copy

You may order this role simulation in either soft copy (electronic) or hard copy (paper) format. If you select the soft copy option, you will receive an e-mail with a URL (website address) from which you may download an electronic file in Adobe Acrobat PDF format. You will have one week to download your materials from when you receive the email. You are then only authorized to use, print, or share the materials as many times as the number of copies you purchase. The TNRC charges for use of this simulation on a per-participant basis. Therefore, you must purchase a separate copy of this simulation for each person who will be participating, regardless of the number of roles in the simulation. You will only receive a link to one electronic file, which includes all general instructions, confidential instructions, and any teaching notes for the simulation. You should separate out the instructions before distributing to participants.

If you select the hard copy option, you will receive paper copies of this role simulation via the shipping method you select.

For additional information about the soft copy option, please visit our FAQ section, or contact the PON Teaching Negotiation Resource Center at or 800-258-4406 (within the U.S.) or 301-528-2676 (outside the U.S.).

Please note: At the present time, Teaching Negotiation Resource Center soft copies are compatible with the following versions of the Adobe Acrobat Reader: English, German, French, Spanish, Swedish, Portuguese, Japanese, and Korean. If you have a different version of the Acrobat Reader, you may wish to download one of these at, or contact the PON Teaching Negotiation Resource Center at, 800-258-4406 (within the U.S.), or 301-528-2676 (outside the U.S.) for further assistance. This restriction does not apply to the freely available Teacher’s Package Review Copies.

Ordering a single copy for review

If you wish to review the materials for a particular role simulation to decide whether you’d like to use it, a PDF, or soft copy, version of the Teacher’s Package for the simulation is available as a free download from the description page of most role simulations and case studies. All Teacher’s Packages include copies of all participant materials. In addition, some Teacher’s Packages (but not all) include additional teaching materials such as teaching notes or overhead masters.

Ordering copies for multiple participants

To order multiple copies of a role simulation for use in a course or workshop, simply enter the total number of participants in the box next to “Quantity.” There is no need to calculate how many of each role is required.

If you are ordering hard copies, the Teaching Negotiation Resource Center will calculate the appropriate numbers of each role to provide, based on the total number of participants. For example, if you wish to order a 2-party role simulation for use with a class of 30 students, you would enter “30” in the box next to “Quantity.” You then would receive 15 copies of one role and 15 copies of the other role, for use with your 30 participants. As another example, if you ordered 30 participant copies of a 6-party role simulation, you would receive 5 copies of each role.

In the event that the number of participant copies you order is not evenly divisible by the number of roles in the simulation, you will receive extra copies of one or more roles. Participants receiving the extra roles may partner with other participants playing the same role, thus negotiating as a team. So, for instance, if you ordered 31 copies of a 2-party role simulation, you would receive 15 copies of the first role and 16 copies of the second role. One of the participants playing the second role would partner with another participant playing that same role, and the two would negotiate as a team.

Bulk Pricing Discount

For bulk orders, we offer the following pricing discounts. Please note that these only apply to bulk orders of the same simulation.

  • Between 100-250 copies – 10% discount
  • Between 251-500 copies – 25% discount
  • More than 500 copies – 50% discount
Log In or Register to download the free Teacher's Package Sample.

SCENARIO for game #1, “School:”

Tom Johnson is a fourteen year old sophomore at Central High School in an older metropolitan suburb. He lives with his mother and two younger sisters. His parents were divorced four years ago, and now his father lives in a neighboring state. Although Tom maintains average grades, he is disruptive in class, and has a truancy problem. He already has twenty unexcused absences this year, and it is only mid way through the second quarter. He also had a truancy problem last year.

About a month ago, a school security guard caught Tom and two of his friends breaking school windows at night. Although Tom says he was not actually involved in destroying the school property, the school principal has decided to schedule a meeting to discuss Tom’s problems. The meeting will be attended by the school principal, Mrs. Johnson, Tom, and a member of the probation department. The principal invited someone from the probation department to the meeting to inform Tom of the actions the court will be forced to take if his current behavior does not improve.


SCENARIO for game #2, “Agency:”

Al Logan is twenty-five years old and single. He was convicted of larceny for the second time in four years, and received a two year suspended sentence with two years probation. He was also ordered to enter an eighteen-month drug rehabilitation program.

Al has failed to complete drug rehabilitation programs in the past. One of his former rehabilitation counselors had believed that Al might have psychological problems to resolve before he could successfully address his drug problems. This counselor had suggested that Al enter a mental health facility, but Al did not want to commit himself to a “crazy house.”

Al will meet with his probation officer and representatives of the Light House Rehabilitation Center and Clark Mental Health Hospital. Together, they will try to determine the optimal program to help Al.


SCENARIO for game #3, “Family:”

Angela Clark is 28 years old, single, and has two children aged two and four. She has moved twice in the last six months, most recently from a rooming house from which she was evicted. She was recently convicted of forgery, her third conviction in as many years, and sentenced to two years in prison. She has already served sixty days, and will be allowed to serve the remainder of her sentence on probation. In addition to her prison sentence, the court has ordered her to pay $1000 in restitution. Her father, a wealthy man, finds his daughter’s behavior appalling. It was he who notified the Department of Social Services (DSS) of Angela’s neglect of her children. He assumed that he and his wife would be given custody, but instead the children were placed under foster care.

Angela wants her children back. In order to regain custody, she must prove that the care and protection issues cited in “neglect” conviction have been addressed, pay the $1000 restitution fee, find gainful employment, and arrange for day care. To do this she needs her father’s help and the aid of her sister. In the upcoming probation meeting, Angela, her father, her probation officer, and a DSS social worker will attempt to resolve this situation.


MECHANICS: “Probation Games,” is a set of three four-party negotiations. It is designed so that lessons learned in the previous simulations can be tested and assimilated quickly in the next simulation. Players should be given 10 minutes to prepare for each exercise. Negotiators should be given 10 minutes to prepare for each exercise. Negotiations should last 30 minutes, and debriefing sessions following each simulation should also last for 30 minutes.



Game #1, “School:”

For all parties:

  • General Background


Role Specific:

Confidential Instructions for the following:

  • Mrs. Jonson
  • Probation Department Staff Member
  • School Principal
  • Tom Johnson


Teacher’s Package:

  • All of the above
  • Teaching Note


Game #2, “Agency:”

For all parties:

  • General Background


Role specific:

Confidential Instructions for the following:

  • Al Logan
  • The Clark Hospital Representative
  • The Light House Representative
  • The Probation Officer


Game #3, “Family:”

For all parties:

  • General Background


Role Specific:

Confidential Instructions for:

  • Angela Clark
  • Department of Social Services Representative
  • Jim Clark
  • The Probation Officer


Teacher’s Package:

  • All of the above
  • Teaching Note


PROCESS THEMES: Emotions; Interest analysis; Options, generating; Reality testing; Relationships; Self-help; Threats; Trust



Game #1:

Threats and incentives should be used only in conjunction with contingent commitments.

Uncovering interests behind positions can help negotiators formulate mutually acceptable agreements.

Inventing options that result in mutual gain improves the likelihood of an acceptable and implementable solution.


Game #2:

Jointly developing objective criteria allows the parties to re-evaluate the situation in a way that is accepted as legitimate by all.

This simulation emphasizes the effectiveness of joint problem-solving. Equal participation in searching for a settlement is likely to lead to consensus.


Game #3:

Separating the people from the problem is especially important when resolving highly emotional situations.

In situations where there is a lack of trust among the parties, contingent agreements can reduce risks and help to rebuild trust.

If parties begin asking for unrealistic or impossible commitments, participants should not hesitate to impose a “reality check” on the discussion.

Probation Games Attributes

Authors: Susan Podziba and Lawrence Susskind
Publisher: Program on Negotiation
Time required:
Number of participants:
Teams involved:
Agent present:
Neutral third party present:
Teaching notes available: