The Curious Disappearance of Sociological Research on Probation Supervision
Criminal Justice and Law Enforcement Annual: Global Perspectives, V. 7 (NS V. 2): 1-30, 2015
Posted: 24 Sep 2014 Last revised: 12 Jan 2016
Date Written: 2015
At the start of the prison boom, scholars in the U.S. vigorously debated the future of “alternative” sanctions, particularly community supervision, and whether they represented a true avenue for potential decarceration or a widening of the net of social control. Community supervision, particularly probation, was central to these debates and the empirical literature. Yet as the carceral state ballooned, sociological scholarship on punishment shifted almost entirely to imprisonment (and, to a lesser extent, parole supervision), despite the fact that probationers comprise nearly 60 percent of the correctional population. This article invites criminologists to turn their attention to sociological or macro-level questions around mass probation. To help start this new wave of research, I provide an intellectual history of sociological research on probation and parole, review the national-level data available on probationers and probationer supervision today, and outline an agenda for future research.
Keywords: probation, punishment, mass incarceration, mass probation
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