Contemporary Modes of Probation Officer Supervision: The Triumph of the “Synthetic” Officer?

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48 Scopus citations


This article considers the continued relevance of law enforcement and social worker roles to probation officer practice, a central motif in community corrections scholarship. It also considers how these traditional functions are integrated into community-oriented supervision practices, increasingly emphasized in policy circles. Using Latent Class Analysis of data from a national community corrections survey, a four-class typology of probation officers was developed, based on their supervision practices. While classes vary according to the intensity of supervision, particularly in the engagement of third parties (family, community, and the police), there are no classes that correspond either to law enforcers or to social workers. Rather, officer classes are all “synthetic”—combining law enforcement and social work functions together in the same strategy. The analysis identifies a number of predictors of membership in more intensive supervision classes. These relate to ideological orientations, caseload characteristics, officer demographics, and agency progressiveness.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)314-336
Number of pages23
JournalJustice Quarterly
Issue number2
StatePublished - Mar 4 2015
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Pathology and Forensic Medicine
  • Law


  • community
  • law enforcement
  • probation
  • social worker
  • supervision


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