Walking the line: Specialized and standard probation officer perspectives on supervising probationers with serious mental illnesses
Matthew W. Epperson, Kelli Canada, Julian Thompson, Arthur Lurigio
International Journal of Law and Psychiatry
26 March 2014
Specialized probation programs were developed to more effectively address the unique needs of probationers with serious mental illnesses. Probation officers are tasked with serving both law enforcement and rehabilitative functions, and officers play an important gatekeeper function in helping probationers with serious mental illnesses avoid long incarceration sentences. The purpose of this paper was to explore specialized and standard probation officers' work in supervising probationers with serious mental illnesses. Twenty-one probation officers (11 specialized and 10 standard) participated in semi-structured interviews. Qualitative analyses examined: 1 — beliefs on the relationship between mental illness and crime; 2 — purpose of specialized and standard probation units; and 3 — approaches to supervising probationers with serious mental illnesses. Implications for developing more effective probation supervision programs are discussed.