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Title: Probation officers' judgements regarding the likelihood of re-offending
Author: Mullineux, Judith Catherine
Awarding Body: University of Ulster
Current Institution: Ulster University
Date of Award: 2013
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Decision making in all areas of social work practice is a challenging and complex process. This study specifically considered professional decision making by probation officers in Northern Ireland. Aim The aim of the study was to explore probation officers' judgements regarding the assessment of recidivism. Method The study was a mixed methods design. The first stage utilised the repertory grid technique (Kelly, 1955) designed to identify the range of factors involved in probation officers' judgements. The sample consisted of fifteen probation officers and the results were analysed using principal components analysis. Factors from the repertory grid, together with issues identified through the literature, were incorporated into a factorial survey (Rossi and Nock, 1982) as the second stage to the study. Ninety-three probation officers completed the survey and the results were analysed through regression analysis. Results The key findings are summarised below: 1. The factorial survey identified that probation officers considered the static factors, number of 'previous convictions ' and 'age' of the offender, as the most significant issues when considering likelihood of reoffending. 2. The dynamic/criminogenic factors of 'substance misuse', 'support networks ', level of 'responsibility' taken for offending behaviour and level of 'cooperation' with supervision, were also considered to be significant factors in the assessment of recidivism. 3. Generally probation officers were not confident in their decision making. They were most confident when the offender presented with twenty or more previous convictions. The level of confidence also rose as the age of the offender being assessed increased. 4. The Assessment, Case management and Evaluation (ACE) assessment tool was considered to be most useful when the number of previous convictions was high. where there was a substance dependency and a volatile and unpredictable demeanour. 5. Probation supervision was considered to be most effective when the offender was cooperative, young , held religious beliefs and attended an organisation and had a history of childhood adversity. 6. Longer serving probation officers tended to be more confident in their decisions while female probation officers were more confident in the effectiveness of probation supervision. Conclusion Probation officers consider the static factors, number of previous convictions and age, to be most significant in the assessment of recidivism. Levels of confidence are also highest when their judgements are based on these factors. Dynamic factors are considered to be most significant when considering the effectiveness of supervision. The introduction of a two-stage model of assessment may therefore be the most appropriate future development. Dissemination The findings of this study will be presented to the Probation Board for Northern Ireland who will circulate to relevant managers and practitioners. The results will also be submitted for publication.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available