The architecture of a probation office

A reflection of policy and an impact on practice




Jake Phillips

Probation Journal

June 2014





This article illustrates how the physicality of a probation office can be considered to reflect several important changes in the probation service’s recent history through analysis of research conducted in a probation office. Moreover, I argue that the design of probation offices has an important impact on practice. I suggest that the relationship between the ‘protected’ zone of the office and the ‘unprotected’ zone of the waiting area and interview rooms is similar to Goffman’s ‘front stage’ and ‘back stage’ (introduced in his book, The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life) and expand on his theory of social action by describing how the architecture of probation represents and potentially perpetuates the creation of an 'us and them' attitude in probation. The article then moves onto the exterior and location of the office to look at how these represent probation’s move away from the communities it serves. This has significant consequences if the policy of probation moves towards modes of practice which no longer prioritize standardization and punishment over professional judgment and the importance of the offender−officer relationship. The article concludes by looking at some examples of more inclusive forms of office design and architecture.








Human Services and Justice Coordinating Committee