The Relationship Between Officer Orientation and Supervision Strategies in Community Corrections

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Community corrections (i.e., probation and parole) officers play a crucial role within criminal justice agencies: They have the onerous task to balance the competing demands of rehabilitating offenders while protecting the community. Field studies have suggested that officers' effectiveness depends, in part, on the relative emphasis they place on these demands (i.e., their orientation toward their roles). However, the extent to which officers' orientations toward rehabilitation versus community safety affect their decisions for individual offenders is not clear. We examined the relationship between officer attitudes and supervisory decisions using a quasi-experimental design. In the first stage of the study, we revised a promising measure of officers' role orientation. In the second stage, we examined the revised scale's psychometric properties, and tested how officers' self-reported orientations related to the strategies they used in hypothetical supervision scenarios. The majority of officers reported a balanced approach of control and support, whereas 29.7% reported a preference for one over the other. Regardless of self-reported orientation, officers approached supervision with similar strategies for an offender's first incident of noncompliance, but when an offender showed continued noncompliance, both officers who emphasized control and those who emphasized a balanced approach toward supervision were more likely to use punitive methods to gain compliance than officers who reported emphasizing rehabilitation. This research furthers our understanding of the relationship between self-reported orientation and supervision strategy. Findings will inform agencies' selection and training of community corrections officers.

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