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What Matters Most in Probation Supervision: Staff Characteristics,Staff Skills or Programme?

NCJ Number
Criminology & Criminal Justice Volume: 12 Issue: 2 Dated: April 2012 Pages: 193-216
Ioan Durnescu
Date Published
April 2012
24 pages
This article explores what the existing literature has to say about what is most important in the probation supervision: staff characteristics, staff skills or programs?
In broader historical perspective, the story begins in a time when the probation officer was cast as 'a man of God ... full of the milk of human kindness' (Jarvis, 1972: 8) and arrives in the present day when the probation officer looks like 'homo technical'; equipped to deliver sophisticated programs. One important observation of this critical historical analysis is that although they were considered essential in the early days, the centrality of staff characteristics faded from view in the years after professionalization. At the same time staff skills and programs came to be seen as more and crucial in probation supervision. A possible explanation of these developments is that the quest for professionalization increased the pressure on probation practice to gain public recognition, and that this was pursued through the imperative of objectification (Kaufmann, 1998 [1996]) which forces all sciences to use observable tools. Another explanation of the disappearance of probation characteristics in the literature could be that the current mainstream research methodologies are not fully capable of capturing the complexities of the human and social worlds in which supervision takes place. By using Cohen's (1985) and Garland's (2001) work, it also provided a possible framework for understanding this dynamic within a broader crime control perspective. At the end of the article the author suggests some ideas that could be explored in future research. (Published Abstract)