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Probation workers, their occupational cultures and offender management. Rob Mawby, Leicester University and Anne Worrall, Keele University . Session 1: Investigating probation cultures . Background and context The study Occupational cultures Preliminary findings General

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Probation workers their occupational cultures and offender management
Probation workers, their occupational cultures and offender management

Rob Mawby, Leicester University


Anne Worrall, Keele University

Session 1 investigating probation cultures
Session 1: managementInvestigating probation cultures

  • Background and context

  • The study

  • Occupational cultures

  • Preliminary findings

    • General

    • The characteristics of probation cultures

    • Implications for offender management

  • Discussion

Background to the study
Background to the study management

  • Change and the Probation Service

  • Increased requirement to work with other CJ agencies

  • Little research on how change impacts on probation staff themselves

  • Emerging interest in CJ occupational cultures

The study
The study management

  • ESRC funded, April 2010 to November 2011

  • PCA supported

  • Small scale and reflective

  • 60 interviews completed:

    • 26 current PSOs, POs, SPOs (PWs)

    • 10 Trainee Probation Officers (TPOs)

    • 16 Chief Officer Grades (COs)

    • 8 former & retired probation workers (FPWs)

    • North and South-East England locations

Main question
Main question management

  • What are the characteristics of contemporary probation cultures and how do probation officers and their managers construct their occupational identities, values and cultures?

Cultures management

  • ‘Cultures are complex ensembles of values, attitudes, symbols, rules, recipes, and practices, emerging as people react to the exigencies and situations they confront, interpreted through the cognitive frames and orientations they carry with them from prior experiences. Cultures are shaped, but not determined, by the structural pressures of actors’ environments.’ Robert Reiner 2010:116

Organisational culture
Organisational culture management

  • ‘The deeper level of basic assumptions and beliefs that are shared by members of an organisation, that operate unconsciously and define in a basic taken-for-granted fashion an organisation’s view of itself and its environment.’ Schein 1985

  • ‘Culture is evidenced in the way the organisation actually operates: it is the taken-for-granted assumptions about “how you run an organisation like this” and “what really matters around here.”’ Johnson and Scholes 1999

Cj agencies and culture
CJ agencies and culture management

  • Police: mission, action, cynicism, danger, suspicion, isolation/solidarity, pragmatism, authority, machismo, intolerance, prejudice, conservatism (Skolnick, Manning, Ericson, Chan, Reiner, Waddington, Heidensohn, Punch, Loftus)

  • Prison: multiple, discretion, cynicism, suspicion, nostalgia, physical and emotional strength, male-dominated, authority, solidarity (Liebling & Price 2001/2010, Crawley 2004)

  • Probation: people first (Annison, Eadie and Knight), demoralization and alienation (Robinson and Burnett), traditional attitudes (Deering)

Lifers second careerists and offender managers
Lifers, second careerists and managementoffender managers

  • ‘Dad was a Dr, mum was a nurse. I wanted to work with people, help them, help them to change.’ (CO 5)

  • ‘I identified the probation service as somewhere where I might be able to bring some of my life skills.’ (PW 12)

  • ‘I’m not on a mission. Seemed like more pay for shorter hours. Getting paid for being nice to people and having public service holidays.’ (TPO 7)

Transformative nature of training
Transformative nature of managementtraining

  • ‘Training does change you. I tell this to all new staff – this organisation is about changing. If you don’t change we haven’t trained you properly.’ (CO 15)

  • ‘I remember having a sort of crisis of faith, lack of confidence.’ (PW 6)

  • ‘I lost my best friend because we fell out over values.’ (PW 2)

  • ‘Before I would not have batted an eyelid [but] all I could think about was, I’m gonna be a probation officer and [my friend’s] smoking – not Benson and Hedges – suppose the police came.’ (TPO 9)

Yearning to be responsibly creative
Yearning to be responsibly managementcreative

  • ‘So I’m just being sneaky really, I’m addressing the offence without - not without them realising clearly – but without them thinking “oh, we’re doing offence focused work”.’ (TPO 4)

  • ‘If you haven’t got a rapport with somebody, if they don’t wanna sit in a room with you, there’s very little you can do, no matter how many times you bring ‘em in or what you do with them because they’re not interested.’ (PW 15)

  • ‘If you work at it, you’ve still got the autonomy…that still manages to get me out of my bed in the morning and still manages to drag me to work.’ (PW 8)

Multi specialised workforce
Multi-specialised workforce management

  • ‘I’ve never worked in the same place on the same job for more than four years at most… to have a sufficiently interesting, stimulating, intellectually challenging career within one organisation.’ (CO 8)

  • ‘I’d done my five years [in prison]…I was being told I had to move out. I was angry, because the idea was that…maybe people are getting a bit sort of tired…[but] that wasn’t the case.’ (FPW 5)

  • ‘It might not necessarily be promotion but maybe diversification, you know, branching off into different areas’. (TPO 3)

Daughters of noms
Daughters of NOMS management

  • ‘In 2001…50% of the chiefs left…so we had 50% new chiefs, of which a large number were women and EW was the national director [but] she bought in wholesale to the Westminster high civil service culture. So she lost contact with the operations and became a political animal…that enjoyed the power.’ (CO 7)

  • ‘The women who are coming in now are mostly 25ish, young psychology, criminology graduates and they don’t have a social work base…they’re not union minded…they’re Thatcher’s children…they’re far more technologically advanced than some of us dinosaurs and able to work better than us in terms of speed.’ (PW 11)

Looking after our own
Looking after our own management

  • ‘I really need to do another weekend here to catch up – I’m sometimes here until midnight. You have to be very committed.’ (PW 14)

  • ‘My day starts at 4.00-5.00am…and when my family come up about 6.00am we’ll all pray together.’ (TPO 3)

  • ‘I used to find at 2.00am I’d wake up and…just work it out then and be ready for the next day.’ (FPW 7)

  • ‘We stick together, we form close friendships because we know what it feels like…we do look after our own…it’s hard for a partner or friend to understand that.’ (PW 7)

Partnership in turbulent times
Partnership in turbulent times management

  • ‘The Police are our natural partners, its a very close relationship.’ (CO 9)

  • ‘NOMS is a mess and probation isn’t understood, everything is done the prison way.’ (CO 10)

  • ‘I think that magistrates’ attitudes to probation officers have changed and I think it’s because they have a better understanding of what we do.’ (PW 21)

Probation as a socially tainted occupation
Probation as a socially tainted occupation management

  • ‘There was an awkward moment…do I come out as a probation officer?’ (TPO 4)

  • ‘Nobody really knew we existed before [NPS]. The downside of that is ministers got interested in what we were doing…we got noticed and getting noticed was a bad thing.’ (CO 7)

  • ‘What upsets me and grieves me and makes me angry is the fact that people are so negative about probation…that’s kind of dirty, depressing [work], they don’t wanna know that, let’s talk about something happy.’ (CO 5)

Napo and the harry fletcher factor
NAPO and the Harry Fletcher managementfactor

  • ‘I don’t think it’s been particularly helpful in some of its PR. In some ways, it’s been very good because there’s been nobody else doing it, so they’ve filled a vacuum. But it tends to be over alarmist, it doesn’t provide public reassurance.’ (CO 4)

  • ‘I really do believe it punches above its weight. We’re a very small union. I think we’ve got a good publicist who keeps us on the front page.’ (PW 11)

Perfect days don t happen
Perfect days don’t happen management

  • ‘[On open plan offices] I’m a very private person. I just wanna come in and get on with the work….and because of the time constraints, I don’t like chitchat and noise…I just wanna get my head down.’ (TPO 3)

  • ‘I made intelligent decisions about whether I was safe to make a home visit or not …[but now] if you don’t follow the procedures and you get hurt, it’s your fault.’ (PW 8)

  • ‘I can’t do anything without my diary – it’s really made me very, very organised’. (TPO 3)

  • ‘Perfect day – come in and everything goes as scheduled. I’ve got my appointments, see them, no problems, update the system and I leave on time [laughs].’ (TPO 2)

Identifying cultural characteristics
Identifying cultural characteristics management

  • Q1: Why do the job?

  • Q2: What are the ‘artefacts’ of the job?

  • Q3: How is the job made sense of?

  • Q4: How do PWs gain job satisfaction?

  • Q5: How do PWs cope with the external environment?

Key findings implications
Key findings & implications management

  • PWs are intelligent, motivated and multi-skilled

  • The cultural stereotype is disingenuous

  • Risk management and public protection are embedded

  • Feminisation implications are far-reaching

  • Liminality is central to probation work

  • Need to encourage and sanction ‘responsible creativity’

  • Cultures do not undermine offender management