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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Presses universitaires de Louvain
CRISP - Centre de Recherche et d'Information Socio-Politiques
Mathias Sabbe,
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


Publicatie datum
28 mei 2014
Aantal pagina's hoofdinhoud : 85
21 x 27 x 0,5 cm
213 grams
Aanbevolen verkoopprijs
12,40 €
Version 2.1, Version 3

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