Discretionary decision-making in the probation supervision setting: Empirical measurement of the influence of legal, socioeconomic, supervision and risk-assessment factors

James John Golbin, Fordham University

Abstract

This research draws on the labelling theorist's perspective in criminology and empirically measures significant factors that influence discretionary decision-making in the adult, probation supervision setting. Specifically, the decision-making processes of probation officers involving 'violation-of-probation' actions, and 'requests-for-early-discharge' from probation actions are investigated. The influence of legal, socio-economic, supervision, and risk-assessment factors are measured for both types of discretionary decision.^ The probation department used as the study site is one of the ten largest county probation departments in New York State. Since the unit of analysis is the discretionary case management decision, interviews were conducted with probation personnel in order to distinguish discretionary from mandatory case decisions. In addition, in order to further improve the accuracy of identifying discretionary decisions, the criminal history of the offender was partially controlled for through the sampling process. The resulting 'violation-of-probation' sample is comprised of 451 discretionary decisions, while the 'early-discharge' sample totals 500 discretionary decisions.^ This study was successful in identifying factors used by probation officers in the discretionary decision-making process in the probation supervision setting. Results indicate that for both samples, the attitude of the probation officer, employment status of the probationer, risk-assessment label, and severity of the current charge are significant factors in discretionary decision-making. These findings support the labelling perspective, and raise questions about the way case decisions are made in the probation supervision setting. Additional questions about the use of risk-assessment technology in contemporary corrections are also raised. ^

Subject Area

Social research|Criminology|Public policy

Recommended Citation

Golbin, James John, "Discretionary decision-making in the probation supervision setting: Empirical measurement of the influence of legal, socioeconomic, supervision and risk-assessment factors" (1989). ETD Collection for Fordham University. AAI8918635.
https://fordham.bepress.com/dissertations/AAI8918635

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