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NCJ Number: 70299 Add to Shopping cart Find in a Library
Title: Defusing Technological Change in Juvenile Courts - The Probation Officer's Struggle for Professional Autonomy
Journal: Sociology of Work and Occupations  Volume:6  Issue:3  Dated:(August 1979)  Pages:259-282
Author(s): G L Albrecht
Date Published: 1979
Page Count: 24
Sponsoring Agency: US Dept of Justice
Washington, DC 20531
Grant Number: 71-EF-658
Format: Article
Language: English
Country: United States of America
Annotation: This paper focuses on the behavior of juvenile court professionals, judges, lawyers, and probation officers and their struggle to maintain control over their work and preserve autonomy despite technological change.
Abstract: Five years of participant observation in a juvenile court showed how the professional dominance theory (professionals exercising a self-regulated occupational monopoly over their work) and the resource dependence model (the struggle for professional autonomy being a function of the relative statuses of the professional groups in the organization) worked to lead the probation staff to sabotage a computerized information system and assert their autonomy. The use of technology in a service organization is determined by the organization's goals and structure as well as by the intent of the professionals who use it. If a new technology does not support the goals of an established professional group, it will be disposed of. In this instance, legal professionals in the juvenile court attempted to assert professional dominance over probation officers and other court staff through a computerized information system. This attempt at social control over court work failed because probation officers, when threatened, acted collectively to maintain their professional autonomy by developing a coordinated strategy. This strategy was to use the system to threaten the autonomy of legal professions, divert attention away from evaluation of probation officer work to case processing and evaluation of client performance, gain control over information input and access, emphasize the importance of probation officer case summaries and recommendations, and show the system to be inaccurate, inefficient, and costly to operate. Ultimately, the computerized system was even physically removed from the court. The result of this struggle reflects an uneven balance of power in which both professions maintain autonomy and control over the work directly in their domain, but recognize that their interdependence is necessary both for achieving the goals of the court and for professional survival. Overall, the importance of the technological innovation in this juvenile court was found to be secondary to the struggle for professional dominance. Two notes and 36 references are provided.
Index Term(s): Computer aided operations; Court reform; Juvenile courts
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