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NCJ Number: 76039 Find in a Library
Title: Discretionary Decision-making in Probation Agencies (From Improving Management in Criminal Justice, P 53-72, 1980, Alvin W Cohn and Benjamin Ward, ed. - See NCJ-76036)
Author(s): H W Roll
Date Published: 1980
Page Count: 20
Sponsoring Agency: Sage Publications, Inc
Thousand Oaks, CA 91320
Sale Source: Sage Publications, Inc
2455 Teller Road
Thousand Oaks, CA 91320
United States of America
Language: English
Country: United States of America
Annotation: According to this paper on discretionary power of probation officers (PO's) and the resulting potential for abuse, decision guidelines similar to those in other criminal justice agencies need to be developed for probation and parole organizations.
Abstract: A fundamental problem of U.S. criminal justice has been its unsystematic behavior. To understand the system, interim decisions that eventually lead to a final disposition of a case should be studied. Because of unique historical, legal, and structural factors, the potential abuse of discretionary authority by probation agencies is greater than by law enforcement, prosecutors, judges or parole boards. PO's have a great power over their charges and the impact of their decisionmaking affects the entire criminal justice system. They have the authority to arrest and search their charges without a warrant, to impose probationers restrictions and conditions not mentioned in the standardized rules of probation, and to enforce compliance. Thus, PO's have authority to formulate, impose, and enforce rules and conditions of behavior above and beyond those required by the law. Another source of PO's discretionary power has been the lack of visibility of most of their key decisions. Because they occupy a pivotal location in the criminal justice system, probation officers are an important source of information for other professionals who depend for the most part, on them. Thus, the effect of this discretionary power on the criminal justice system is a major concern. According to a study of the California State parole system, there is wide variation in dispositional decisions, not only between administrative regions but also between district offices in the same region and between caseloads within the same office. This means that parolee behavior alone is not a good predictor of the disposition rendered in a given case. In order to curtail potential for abuse of discretionary power while allowing for some flexibility needed in making crucial criminal justice decisions, guidelines should be developed for probation and parole organizations. A discussion of relevant literature, notes, and about 30 references are included.
Index Term(s): Discretionary decisions; Probation or parole agencies; Probation or parole decisionmaking
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