1st Edition

Doing Probation Work Identity in a Criminal Justice Occupation

By Rob Mawby, Anne Worrall Copyright 2013
    200 Pages 2 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    200 Pages 2 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    A great deal has been written about the political, policy and practice changes that have shaped probation work but little has been written on the changes to occupational cultures and the ways in which probation workers themselves view their role. This book fills that gap by exploring the meaning of ‘doing probation work’ from the perspective of probation workers themselves.

    Based on 60 extensive interviews with probation workers who joined the probation service from the 1960s to the present day, this book reaches beyond criminological and policy analysis to an application of sociological and organizational theory to rich qualitative data. It explores the backgrounds and motivations of probation workers, their changing relationships with other criminal justice agencies, and the complex public perceptions and media representations of probation work. The book considers the relative influences of religion, the union, diversity and feminization and, while it acknowledges that probation work is stressful, it draws innovatively on sociological and organizational concepts to categorize how workers respond to turbulent times.

    This book challenges the dominant narrative of probation’s decline in recent literature and constructs three ‘ideal types’ of probation worker - ‘lifers’, ‘second careerists’ and ‘offender managers.’ Each makes an essential contribution to probation cultures, which collectively contribute to, rather than undermine, the effectiveness of offender management and the future of probation work. This book will be important reading for researchers in the disciplines of criminology, criminal justice, sociology and management as well as probation workers of all grades and those in training.

    1. Probation: A tainted but resilient concept  2. Lifers, second careerists and offender managers  3. There's a time and a place  4. Probation's changing relationships with courts, police and prisons  5. Perceptions, misconceptions and representations  6. Job crafting, coping and responding to adverse working conditions  7. Diversity and different voices in probation work  8. Doing probation work: cultures, identities and the future.


    Rob C. Mawby has been undertaking criminal justice research for twenty years and his publications have focused principally on policing. With Anne Worrall he has also pursued his interests in the supervision of offenders and the development of organizational cultures. He currently works in the Department of Criminology at the University of Leicester.

    Anne Worrall is Professor of Criminology at Keele University and Honorary Professorial Fellow at the University of Western Australia. A former probation officer, she has written extensively about her two overlapping research interests, namely, women offenders and the probation service.

    'Prison officer and police culture have been relatively well researched, but Worrall and Mawby‘s book begins to make good our limited understanding of the practice cultures of probation. Based on interviews with probation staff and applying insights from the sociology of organisations, the book discusses probation’s professional culture, influences upon it and the way in which it shapes practice. It particularly illuminates the implications for inter-agency work. This is not only a major study of probation, but stands as an important case study of the evolution and development of an occupational culture.'

    Rob Canton, Head of Research in Community and Criminal Justice at De Montfort University, UK.

    'This book offers a highly original, empirical study of a subject that has been neglected for far too long. Mawby and Worrall are to be congratulated for beginning to open up the world of probation officers’ occupational culture, showing their working lives and the meanings they attach to what they do.'

    George Mair, Professor of Criminal Justice and Head of Research in the Law School, Liverpool John Moores University, UK.

    'This is a hugely welcome addition to the published works on the Probation Service, offering some critical insights into the everyday role, functions and challenges of probation, but also setting out prospects for the future in a changing context of criminal justice delivery. This book fills a gap in the literature; it is cutting-edge work which deserves wide readership.'

    Loraine Gelsthorpe, Professor in Criminology and Criminal Justice, University of Cambridge, UK.

    'First of all, it is important to clarify that this book focuses on "probation workers and their occupational cultures" (page 1). It engages with issues covered in the range of recent publications relating to probation but offers a distinctive approach: it draws on the authors’ research into this criminological area, conducted via qualitative interviews, and then applies an in-depth, impressive level of analysis, drawing on sociological and organisational theories. This may sound somewhat daunting but it is testament to the quality of the writing and the integration of this analytical framework that this book is hard to put down!'

    Dr Jill Annison, Plymouth University, UK. 

    'This book is an enjoyable read, and ought to be read by anyone with even a passing interest in either probation work or occupational cultures (in criminal justice and beyond). Anyone with any experience of working in the probation service in the last 50 years will no doubt recognise themselves and their colleagues within its pages, and it is very much to the authors’ credit that they manage so skilfully to bring the ‘invisible trade’ (Pithouse 1998) of probation work to life.' 

    Gwen Robinson, Howard Journal.

    '...a wonderfully inspiring and ultimately, optimistic book about the National Probation Service of England and Wales. But, you may ask, why should anyone outside England and Wales read it? Our National Probation Service is a unique institution with a long and striking tradition embedded in the political history of penality in the UK. Quite so. Yet...Doing Probation Work is as much about occupational sociology as it is about crime and to that extent the book makes a serious contribution to the study of professions, managerialism and the maintenance of professional identity in face of technological and ideological change and political denigration. Moreover, and most importantly, it also makes a significant contribution to the study of qualitative sociological methods.If I were still teaching in Universities, I would make this required reading for anyone undertaking a case study involving empirical investigation.'

    Pat Carlen, University of Kent at Canterbury, British Journal of Criminology.

    'It is an absorbing read […]When I saw the names of the authors of this book I expected it to be insightful, thought provoking and shrewdly analytical. I was not disappointed […] this excellent book provides the fullest account of contemporary probation practice currently available.'

    Maurice Vanstone, Criminal Law and Criminal Justice Books, Rutgers University, 2013.