Probing probation : issues of gender and organisation within the probation service
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This study focuses on the probation service and the changes that are impacting on this part of the criminal justice system. It develops a theoretically distinctive approach, drawing on the literature of gender and organisations, in order to investigate issues relating to the organisational structures and processes experienced by male and female probation officers in three disparate probation areas in England. The opening two chapters examine the development of the organisation in terms of the hierarchical roles within the service and the gendered distribution of probation officer staff across the various grades. This review provides a unique understanding of the changing composition of the probation service and enables a gendered perspective to be applied to its history. Within this context issues of professional identity and autonomy, the value base and working practices of probation officers, and the shift from local to centralised control are scrutinised from an analytic position which identifies the embeddedness of gender within this organisational setting. The framework of a reflexive approach interweaves gendered issues from the quantitative findings with qualitative responses from interviews with male and female probation officers and participant observation within different working environments. New perspectives are gained on the shift from local to Home Office direction of the service, and into the abandonment of the social work qualification and ethos. Moreover, the complexities of working relationships and professional identities are opened up from a gendered viewpoint. In this respect the study addresses the absence of gender within other research in this area and concludes that a gendered analysis is of critical importance in understanding the extent of organisational change within the probation service.
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