Professionalism as a determining factor in the role of the federal probation officer: An assessment

Alfred Richard D'Anca, Fordham University


This dissertation is an in-depth exploratory analysis of the influence which professional and bureaucratic practices within Federal probation offices and officers' interrelationships within their role network have on the manner in which officers perform their role and realize perceived job mission. It is assumed that probation is a professionalizing occupation. Role conflict was addressed secondarily in terms of professional goals and organizational expectations. The sample consisted of 138 respondents assigned to eleven randomly selected Federal probation offices, stratified by size, within the Northeast region. A two-fold research methodology employed the use of questionnaires, as well as in-depth personal interviews conducted in workplace settings. Tables reflected the chi square test to determine significant associations between survey items in relation to different-sized offices. Supervisory monitoring of line officers' work characterized the organization of all sample offices. However, no significant influence on officers' case decision-making was discovered in large or small work environments. While all officers are expected to effectively address different offender needs, there was a lack of systematized training to enhance this expertise. Further, where specialization is implemented, the specialist does not characteristically function as a resource person to staff and office guidelines do not encourage such interaction. Officers' sense of professional esteem is an effect of their recognition by significant members of the role network, such as judges and parole authorities to whose decision-making the officer contributes. In this regard, the type of interaction between officers and those others is a significant factor. The study failed to corroborate the philosophical dilemma traditionally related to the assistance and enforcement dimensions of the probation function. Rather, role conflict, endemic to the process by which probation work is carried out in its organizational setting, is generated primarily by divergent interests of probation, Court and correctional authorities. It is concluded that the presence and implementation of professional practices within a bureaucratic system provide a consultative work environment which facilitates officers' interaction with colleagues, superiors and significant members of the role network, and officers' pursuit of professional job goals. Such a social setting also permits the educative communication of probation's goals and negotiation of conflicting interests with systemic network members.

Subject Area

Criminology|Labor relations

Recommended Citation

D'Anca, Alfred Richard, "Professionalism as a determining factor in the role of the federal probation officer: An assessment" (1988). ETD Collection for Fordham University. AAI8818456.