Confusion, Frustration, and Conflict: The Social Construction of Felony Probation Orders

Kristen DeVall, Western Michigan University
Paul Gregory, Western Michigan University

In this research, we focus on how probation officers perceive felony probation orders and the way these legal documents impact the term of supervision. The probation order is an important tool for both the offender and probation officer during this process, as the probation officer's job requires that s/he follow this document in supervising individuals, while the offender must follow the specific provisions of the order in order to remain in compliance.

We are relying on the social constructionist perspective as a theoretical framework in which to ground our research. We believe that both probation officers and offenders perceive this term of supervision very differently based on differing socially constructed meanings and interpretations of the probation order. Therefore, by comparing and contrasting the different perspectives, we hope to address the dis-juncture between what is written in the actual probation order and how the interaction between probation officer and offender influences this socially constructed process.

This research incorporates the use of narratives of both researchers who have experience working with the adult felony probation system, textual analysis of probation orders, and in-depth interviews of five adult probation officers. In conclusion, we will discuss our findings and address specific policy implications.

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Updated 05/20/2006