By John Deering
This paper reveals that the attitude of recently recruited probation officers conflicts with the Government’s view of probation as ‘punishment in the community,’ with a focus on protecting the public.
The author interviewed over 100 trainees entering the probation service three times; at the beginning, middle and end of their training. He found that although those interviewed recognised the Government’s agenda, their principal reasons for joining the service were to engage on a humanistic level with offenders and to offer ‘help’ in the widest sense with a view to assisting individuals to achieve behavioural change.
During the decade leading up to these respondents applying to join the probation service, the Government had been changing the aims and purposes of the service, promoting the idea that it had got tougher although still retaining a commitment to some form of rehabilitation. The Government had also removed the requirement for probation officers to qualify as social workers, which was previously the case.
The study shows that in this respect the Government has succeeded. Yet the values and beliefs of recruits seem very much in line with those seen in the past. When asked about why they had applied to train, the clear and overwhelming majority of respondents were looking for a satisfying and meaningful job. They hope to achieve this by working with and ‘helping people’. There was little obvious sense of trainees joining to carry out a law enforcement or control agenda.
Attitudes and beliefs of trainee probation officers: A ‘new breed’? is available here. http://prb.sagepub.com/cgi/reprint/57/1/9