Balancing Public Safety and Social Work: An Analysis of Probation Officers' Frontline Practices in Belgium

Probation officers (POs) supervise citizens serving a sanction within the community under conditions restricting their liberty. This thesis proposes two empirical studies exploring the nature and conditions of officer-offender interactions during public service delivery in Belgium. Lees verder

Probation officers (POs) supervise citizens serving a sanction within the community under conditions restricting their liberty. This understudied group of street-level bureaucrats operates in a high-risk environment where resources are limited and where managerial reforms can interfere with their work ethos.
This thesis proposes two empirical studies exploring the nature and conditions of officer-offender interactions during public service delivery in Belgium. First, I implemented a thematic analysis of interviews conducted with Belgian POs to examine how they adapt offender supervision in response to multiple work constraints. Second, I used a structural equation modelling of survey data to examine how individual and organizational factors affect the importance officers attach to their trustworthiness assessments when opting for a given course of action with their supervisees.
A synthesis of the results reveals that, despite multiple constraints, POs maintain benevolent practices with some offenders. POs assess offenders in two successive steps that are each associated with a specific set of organizational (first step) and individual (second step) conditions that affect their preferences for specific offender traits. Ultimately, POs' benevolent practices are mostly oriented towards the probationers who are considered the most deserving: individuals who are simultaneously in urgent need for help and care, who are regarded as trustworthy, but who do not seem to present any major risk for the community. These results should be applicable to other probation systems as well as many other street-level organizations where frontline workers manage caseloads and operate a guidance of citizen-clients.


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Gegevens


Uitgever
Presses universitaires de Louvain
Auteur
Mathias Sabbe,
Set
Taal
Engels
BISAC Subject Heading
LAW027000 LAW / Criminal Procedure
BIC subject category (UK)
L Law
Onix Audience Codes
06 Professional and scholarly
CLIL (2013)
4093 Sociologie
Voor het eerst gepubliceerd
26 november 2020
Subject Scheme Identifier Code
: Droit judiciaire
: Sociologie

Paperback


Publicatie datum
26 november 2020
ISBN-13
9782390610069
Omvang
Aantal pagina's hoofdinhoud : 490
Code
101109
Formaat
16 x 24 cm
Gewicht
773 grams
Packaging Type
No outer packaging
Aanbevolen verkoopprijs
36,00 €
ONIX XML
Version 2.1, Version 3

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General introduction ____________________________________ 21
Framework of the research ______________________________________ 25
Structure of the manuscript ______________________________________ 26
Chapter 1 – Street-level bureaucrats supervising offenders in
probation services ______________________________________ 29
Introduction ______________________________________________ 29
Section I – Street-level bureaucracy: an overview ________________ 30
A – Street-level bureaucrats: who are they, and why do they matter? ____ 30
B – Discretion at the frontlines ___________________________________ 35
C – The nature and conditions of frontline workers' coping mechanisms __ 40
D – SLB research in probation services _____________________________ 46
Section II – Probation practice: a criminological perspective _______ 49
A – Probation? Definition and related concepts ______________________ 49
1 – Probation, restorative justice, and the notion of rehabilitation ____ 49
2 – Risk management and the rise of the new penology _____________ 55
B – What is effective practice in offender supervision? ________________ 58
1 – Explaining and predicting desistance _________________________ 58
2 – Effective practice in promoting rehabilitation and preventing reoffense___ 61
C – Officers’ actual practices of supervision _________________________ 64
1 – Evidence-based tools and technologies in offender supervision ____ 65
2 – POs’ professional identities, role orientations, and attitudes ______ 68
3 – The delivery and practice of offender supervision _______________ 72
Conclusion of the first chapter _______________________________ 76
Chapter 2 – Officer-offender interactions in the correctional sector:
a systematic literature review ____________________________ 79
Introduction ______________________________________________ 79
Section I – Dealing with conflicting agencies at the frontline _______ 82
Section II – Method and scope of the review ____________________ 84
Section III – Results of the review _____________________________ 89
A – Discretion and frontline agency ________________________________ 89
B – Coping mechanisms and frontline agency ________________________ 93
Conclusion of the second chapter _____________________________ 97
A – Discretion, coping, and agency logics at the frontlines of the correctional sector ___ 97
B – Empirical, methodological, and practical considerations ___________ 100
C – Final thoughts on officer-offender interactions __________________ 101
Chapter 3 – Analytical framework and context of the research _ 105
Introduction _____________________________________________ 105
Section I – Research question and analytical framework _________ 106
A – Trust and trustworthiness ___________________________________ 107
B – Uncertainties about frontline workers’ reliance on trustworthiness assessments _ 109
C – The need for more PA research on officer-offender interactions in probation services_ 111
D – Research question and analytical framework: two studies to fill the gaps _ 113
1 – First empirical study: how do POs cope during public service delivery? _ 114
2 – Second empirical study: the assessment of offenders’ trustworthiness _ 115
3 – Bringing the two studies together ___________________________ 116
Section II – Context: the Belgian Houses of Justice ______________ 119
A – A short history of the Belgian Houses of Justice __________________ 120
B – What is probation and how is it performed in Belgium? ___________ 122
C – The managerialization of probation work (and the rise of punitiveness?) _ 126
D – A critical and atypical case ___________________________________ 129
Conclusion of the third chapter _____________________________ 131
Chapter 4 – Approach and methods _______________________ 133
Introduction _____________________________________________ 133
Section I – Epistemological and ontological approach ____________ 134
Section II – First study: data collection through semi-structured interviews _ 136
A – Semi-structured interviews __________________________________ 137
B – With whom and where? _____________________________________ 138
1 – With whom? French-speaking judicial assistants _______________ 139
2 – Where? The Houses of Justice of the Wallonia-Brussels Federation 140
C – Empirical objective _________________________________________ 144
Section III – Second study: an online survey questionnaire to collect the data_ 149
A – An online survey questionnaire _______________________________ 149
B – Construction of the questionnaire _____________________________ 151
C – The implementation of the survey _____________________________ 154
D – Managing the collected data _________________________________ 157
Section IV – Data analysis __________________________________ 159
A – First study: analyzing the qualitative data _______________________ 160
1 – A thematic analysis of semi-structured interviews _____________ 160
2 – In practice ______________________________________________ 161
B – Second study: analyzing the quantitative data ___________________ 165
1 – Structural equation modeling of the collected data _____________ 165
2 – In practice ______________________________________________ 167
Conclusion of the fourth chapter ____________________________ 168
Chapter 5 – Frontline practices in probation: how do Belgian
probation officers cope during public service delivery? ________ 171
Introduction _____________________________________________ 171
Section I – Conceptual framework and hypotheses ______________ 173
A – The nature and conditions of coping ___________________________ 174
B – Picturing the nature and conditions of POs’ coping behaviors _______ 177
1 – Organizational factors: a lack of organizational resources ________ 177
2 – Individual factors: a lack of personal resources ________________ 180
Section II – Thematization process report _____________________ 182
A – Characteristics of the participants _____________________________ 183
B – Organizational conditions ___________________________________ 183
C – Implementing offender supervision ___________________________ 188
D – Offender profiles and supervision dynamics _____________________ 195
E – Administrative tools and instruments __________________________ 201
F – Changes in institutional philosophy ____________________________ 203
Section III – Analysis results: overcoming the challenges of offender supervision _ 205
A – A coping florilegium ________________________________________ 205
1 – Rationing: privileging quantity over quality ___________________ 205
2 – Prioritization: picking the most demanding cases ______________ 206
3 – Routinization and simplification: narrowing supervision efforts to monitoring _ 208
4 – Instrumental actions: long-lasting solutions to ease supervision __ 209
5 – Rule breaking: non-compliance with work instructions __________ 212
B – A matter of survival ________________________________________ 214
1 – The common denominator: increasing workloads and time scarcity 214
2 – Walking on thin ice: the weight of accountability ______________ 221
3 – The (muffled) virtues of circumstantial professionalism _________ 224
Main findings and conclusion of the fifth chapter _______________ 227
1 – Supervising offenders amidst time shortages and managerialism _ 227
2 – Weighty responsibilities and the swan song of professionalism ___ 232
3 – Under severe pressure, yet still benevolent? __________________ 233
4 – Conclusive note _________________________________________ 235
Chapter 6 – Accounting for officers’ benevolent practices: the role of
individual and organizational factors in the assessment of
offenders’ trustworthiness ______________________________ 239
Introduction _____________________________________________ 239
Section I - Conceptual framework and hypotheses ______________ 241
A – POs’ reliance on trustworthiness assessments when using their discretion _ 241
B – Organizational factors and the importance given to trustworthiness assessments _ 243
1 – The amount of perceived workload _________________________ 243
2 – Perceived managerial support _____________________________ 245
C – Individual factors and the importance given to trustworthiness
assessments _________________________________________________ 247
1 – POs’ subjective role perceptions ____________________________ 247
2 – POs’ general propensity to trust others ______________________ 250
D – Operationalization and measurement synthesis__________________ 252
Section II – Descriptive statistics _____________________________ 256
A – Age, gender, and educational level ____________________________ 256
B – General propensity to trust, subjective role, workload perceptions, and
perceived managerial support ___________________________________ 260
C – Dependent variable: importance POs attach to their trustworthiness assessments _ 270
D – Synthesis and brief discussion: one job, contrasting profiles ________ 273
1 – Control variables ________________________________________ 274
2 – Independent variables ____________________________________ 275
Section III – Conducting the SEM analysis______________________ 278
A – Confirmatory factor analysis _________________________________ 278
B – Descriptives and correlations _________________________________ 282
C – Structural model ___________________________________________ 286
Main findings and conclusion of the sixth chapter_______________ 290
A – Mixed evidence supporting the hypotheses _____________________ 291
B – Predominance of individual factors ____________________________ 295
Chapter 7 – Results, discussion, and implications ____________ 297
Section I – Main results ____________________________________ 297
A – Altruistic caseworkers and the two-step assessment of offenders ___ 297
B – Discussion of the results _____________________________________ 303
1 – Finding the deserving offender: balancing risks, social urgency, and
trustworthiness ____________________________________________ 304
2 – Assessing probationers’ trustworthiness: different officer profiles 306
3 – Managerialism and frontline practices _______________________ 309
Section II – Theoretical implications __________________________ 311
A – Citizen-agency at the frontlines of probation ____________________ 311
B – Articulating self-interests and a selfless desire to help others _______ 314
C – Multiple accountabilities ____________________________________ 316
D – From client’s trustworthiness to clients’ deservingness ____________ 318
E – The managerial revision of the Belgian correctional system ________ 321
F – The digitalization of probation work ___________________________ 323
Section III –Practical implications ____________________________ 325
A – Handling a variety of PO profiles ______________________________ 326
1 – Recruitment ____________________________________________ 327
2 – Trainings _______________________________________________ 328
3 – Taking advantage of profile diversity ________________________ 330
B – Officers’ need for transparency and the key role of managers ______ 331
General conclusion ____________________________________ 335
A – Research problem, question, and approach ________________ 337
B – Synthesis of the results _________________________________ 343
1 – Results of the first study: still benevolent under pressure __________ 343
2 – Results of the second study: the predominance of individual factors _ 346
3 – General results of the research _______________________________ 348
A two-step assessment of offenders ____________________________ 348
An assessment process geared in favor of deserving individuals _____ 351
Frontline probation officers and trustworthiness: a typology ________ 352
C – Theoretical, methodological, and practical implications _______ 353
Theoretical implications _____________________________________ 353
Methodological implications __________________________________ 355
Practical implications ________________________________________ 357
References ___________________________________________ 359
Appendices ___________________________________________ 439
Appendix 1 – Results of the literature review __________________ 440
Appendix 2 – Data collection methods in the reviewed articles ____ 446
Appendix 3 – Full thematic tree _____________________________ 448
Appendix 4 – Invitation and follow-up emails __________________ 452
Appendix 5 – Survey questions and items _____________________ 455
Appendix 6 – Case summaries _______________________________ 461
Appendix 7 – Non-parametric tests reports (Kruskal-Wallis) ______ 467
Appendix 8 – One-way ANOVA test reports ____________________ 472
Appendix 9 – CFA and measurement model reports _____________ 478
Appendix 10 – SEM reports _________________________________ 485