Places not Cases?: Re-thinking the Probation Focus
John Augustus, the ‘first probation officer’, carried a caseload assigned by the court. And ever since, this way of organising the probation officer's accountability has dominated the profession. To be sure, there are plenty of probation officers who do not carry caseloads, but probation officers who ‘work the line’ do so around an assignment of specific cases. This tradition has considerable implications for the professional identity of the probation officer and the day-to-day work-styles the job generates. Recently, however, a growing movement of innovation has arisen in probation work which takes probation's focus away from the caseload: partnerships, restorative justice, community crime prevention, and so forth. Research repeatedly shows us that probationers' residences are concentrated in certain locations – typically certain more-or-less well identified neighbourhoods. This fact suggest that an alternative way of organising line work of probation officers would be by place rather than case. This article explores the rationale for such a shift in probation officer work, and it speculates about the benefits that might accrue to the profession from taking such a step. Potential problems are also identified.
Document Type: Research Article
Affiliations: Distinguished Professor, John Jay College of Criminal Justice, City University of New York, USA
Publication date: May 1, 2005