Bridging the Research/Practice Gap: Street-Level Decision Making and Historical Influences Related to Use of Evidence-Based Practices in Adult Probation

Jill Viglione

Major Professor: Danielle S. Rudes, PhD, Department of Criminology, Law and Society

Committee Members: Faye S. Taxman, Stephen D. Mastrofski, Steven Belenko

Commerce Building, #3006
March 30, 2015, 10:00 AM to 07:00 AM

Abstract:

Growing empirical research finds that a correctional system devoted to punishment is ineffective and can actually produce criminogenic effects (Nagin, Cullen & Johnson, 2009). As a result, many justice organizations, including probation, are encouraging managers and staff to adopt evidence-based practices (EBPs)—practices supported by scientific evidence, such as validated risk and needs assessments, motivational interviewing, and cognitive-behavioral therapies. Current research finds that when used appropriately, evidenced-based, rehabilitative interventions are effective at reducing recidivism (Andrews & Bonta, 2010) and improving overall probation success (Taxman, 2008). Despite this push, justice organizations are often slow to adopt and implement effective practices. Implementation of EBPs falls heavily on street-level workers, like probation officers (POs) as they adopt/adapt and implement policy and practice changes by incorporating them into routines and decisions. Using a mixed method approach (ethnography and surveys), this study builds upon traditional street-level decision-making literature, but broadens the scope of inquiry by critically examining how POs understand, define and adapt new practices to their existing organizational routines. Further, this dissertation examines the conditions under which POs make adaptations to policy and the role that organizational culture and the history of the organization plays in shaping adaptation decisions, which ultimately play a critical role in the way in which POs carry out their job and policies designed to improve probation practice and outcomes.