How probation officers understand and work with people on community supervision sentences to enhance compliance

AuthorEmily M Norman,Lara Wilson,Nicola J Starkey,Devon LL Polaschek
Published date01 December 2022
Date01 December 2022
Subject MatterArticles
How probation off‌icers
understand and work
with people on
community supervision
sentences to enhance
Emily M Norman , Lara Wilson,
Nicola J Starkey, and Devon
LL Polaschek
Department of Psychology, University of Waikato, New Zealand
This study aimed to explore, describe, and interpret New Zealand probation off‌icers
insights into superviseesnon-compliance with community sentences. Seventeen pro-
bation off‌icers participated in two focus groups. Probation off‌icers viewed problems
with cognitive skills as a key barrier to sentence compliance. They reported that these
problems underpinned other factors linked to compliance, such as meeting basic
needs and skill acquisition. Probation off‌icers employed a number of social worker
oriented evidenced-based strategies, including building high-quality relationships
and being f‌lexible, along with modif‌ication of sentence requirements to increase
supervisee compliance, especially with supervisees who faced considerable obstacles
when engaging with a community sentence.
non-compliance, cognitive skills, probation off‌icer perspective, offender supervision
Corresponding Author:
Emily Norman, University of Waikato, Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences, Hamilton 3240, New Zealand.
Article The Journal of Communit
and Criminal Justice
Probation Journal
2022, Vol. 69(4) 472492
© The Author(s) 2021
Article reuse guidelines:
DOI: 10.1177/02645505211041579
In New Zealand, the Department of Corrections is responsible for the supervision of
approximately 30,000 supervisees per year who serve community-based sentences.
Probation off‌icers are employed to monitor the superviseescompliance with the sen-
tence conditions ordered by the court or parole board. Community sentences have
the dual purpose of rehabilitating and monitoring supervisees. Sentence conditions
correspond with these objectives by including a mix of rehabilitative (e.g. anger
management classes) and constraining (e.g. electronic monitoring) elements.
Probation off‌icers have discretion in responding to compliance issues, including situ-
ational barriers that substantially increase the risk of non-compliant behaviours
despite a supervisees motivation to be compliant or commitment to change
(Braithwaite, 2003; Robinson and McNeill, 2008). However, the perspective of
probation off‌icers who monitor, manage, and support these sentences, on the
factors that contribute to non-compliance has been largely overlooked. Therefore,
we explored how probation off‌icers understand and respond to non-compliance,
to provide more clarity about the situational contexts that contribute to non-
compliance with community sentences.
Distinct types of community sentence compliance have been proposed by both
Bottoms (2001) and Robinson and McNeill (2008). Bottoms (2001) distinguished
between compliance where supervisees adhere to all conditions of their sentences:
referred to as short-term requirementcompliance, and actual desistance from
crime, referred to as longer-term legal compliance.Robinson and McNeill
(2008) expanded on Bottomswork by further dividing short term, or sentence com-
pliance into two subcategoriesformal vs. substantive complianceto represent
the minimum level of behaviour needed to comply with the letterof the sentence,
and behaviour demonstrating active engagement in change respectively. Often
the causes of non-compliance can be related back to a supervisees dynamic risk
factors such as attitudes, associates, and substance use (Bonta and Andrews,
2016). Nevertheless, non-compliance is also driven by chronic issues such as the
supervisees chaotic lifestyle or inability to effectively manage a host of personal pro-
blems (Deering, 2010; Farrall, 2002; Hucklesby, 2009; Ugwudike, 2013), and not
having access to basic needs, such as reliable transportation (Garland et al., 2011;
Luther et al., 2011) or stable housing (Herbert et al., 2015). Similar to police off‌icers
and custodial correctional off‌icers who use discretion when enforcing laws and rules
(Goldstein, 1963; Haggerty and Bucerius, 2020), probation off‌icers have the
authority to use discretion when deciding how they will respond to a supervisees
non-compliance (Jones and Kerbs, 2007). Thus, probation off‌icers are responsible
for discerning the causes and motivations for non-compliant behaviours; in turn,
their perceptions of the behaviour and its causes guide their response (e.g. do
nothing, give a verbal warning, impose sanctions, or initiate a formal breach).
Therefore, at the center of superviseescompliance with community supervision
are not just their own decisions and actions, but also the strategies probation off‌icers
employ when responding to their behaviour, potentially leading to better or poorer
compliance with sentence conditions (Robinson and McNeill, 2008).
Norman et al. 473

To continue reading

Request your trial

VLEX uses login cookies to provide you with a better browsing experience. If you click on 'Accept' or continue browsing this site we consider that you accept our cookie policy. ACCEPT