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Probation and Parole: Supervision - Social Work Or Law Enforcement?

role surveillance conflict offenders

The split between treatment and surveillance has attracted a great deal of attention, but very little in terms of empirical studies. Most authors seem to interpret role conflict as somehow tragic, intractable, and overwhelming. The most common solution has been to advocate that one orientation must be emphasized over all others. Simply put, is the role of the PO that of the helper or the cop?

The roots of role conflict often are attributed to inconsistencies that exist in the three main functions of supervision: to enforce the legal requirements of supervision (the "law enforcement" role), to assist the offender in establishing a successful community adjustment (the "social worker" role), and to carry out the policies of the supervision agency (the "bureaucrat" role). One critic of surveillance was John Conrad, who wrote:

We can hardly justify parole services on the basis of the surveillance model. What the parole officer can do, if it should be done at all, can better be done by the police. The pushing of doorbells, the recording of "contacts," and the requirement of monthly reports all add up to expensive pseudoservices. At best they constitute a costly but useless frenzy of activity. But more often than not, I suspect, they harass and humiliate the parolee without gaining even the illusion of control. (p. 21)

Certainly probation or parole officers have no monopoly on role conflict. Many feel that the true "professional" finds a way of integrating various role expectations, balancing them, and weighing the appropriateness of various expressions of the roles. It is probable that the treatment-surveillance dichotomy will remain forever. Recent developments suggest that surveillance is likely to become the primary emphasis, especially for offenders who constitute a demonstrable risk to society. Providing assistance to offenders can involve direct services by the PO, such as counseling in areas like employment, education, marital/family relationships, companions, and alcohol and drug usage. Often times POs do not directly provide services, but rather serve a referral function in which they refer offenders to other community resources for help or assistance.

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over 11 years ago

looking for a famous person in the law enforcement social work department... can you help me out i need to do a portfolio on this person...