Date of Award


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy



First Advisor

Dr. Susan Caulfield

Second Advisor

Dr. Victoria Ross

Third Advisor

Dr. Paula Brush

Fourth Advisor

Dr. Stuart Wright


This dissertation is a case study of an adult probation department in a southern state. Adult probation is an important part of the criminal justice system, as it provides a reduced program cost compared with incarceration. Current literature proposes that adult probation is in crisis due to poor to sub-standard performance by probationers, a collapse in supervision, and decline in probation funding. This dissertation attempts to answer the question of possible causes for problems in the adult probation system. To accomplish this, this work focuses on how probation officers and clients are affected by contradictions occurring between the theory and practice of the probation system.

This research makes a unique contribution to corrections literature, as it focuses on the lives of individual actors in the system (probation officers and probationers). Probation officer and probationer interviews and secondary data (probation orders) are analyzed to determine the extent to which the adult probation system is individualized. That is, this research attempts to answer the question of whether or not adult probation is designed to meet the individual needs of probationers. Race, gender, and class differences are highlighted. The contradictions identified between the theory and practice of adult probationproduce frustration, disappointment, and anger for probation officers, as their probation roles conflict with being client advocates. Probationers also characterize the contradictions between the theory and practice of probation as problematic. Probationers experience frustration with the current probationsystem, as it fails to adequately take into account their everyday lives, which increased, not decreased the hurdles needed to complete probation. Findings from the analysis of criminal court files paint a picture of a probation order containing little variation. That is, the conditions found on the probation orders viewed contained little variation even though the individuals for whom they were designed were varied.

A discussion of the findings presented, the implications of these findings for probation officers and probationers, the limitations of this research and suggestions for the direction of future research regarding adult probation are presented.

Access Setting

Dissertation-Open Access