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Success and failure in adult probation : an exploratory survey of adult male probationers and a comparative study relating outcome of probation period to selected social characteristics : British Columbia, 1955-1956 Welsh, Gordon William

Abstract

Probation is only one of the alternative dispositions available to the court in sentencing an offender. The present study has two major parts, (a) It examined in detail the personal, social, and environmental characteristics of all adult males placed under the supervision of the British Columbia Provincial Probation Branch in the fiscal year 1955-56. (b) The relation of a group of selected characteristics to the outcome of the cases is explored, (i.e. whether or not they successfully completed the time period of probation prescribed by the court). Definition and description of probation introduces the study. The Canadian, and more specifically the British Columbia history and current picture of adult probation services is given. The present limited supply of probation facilities and the need to use this limited resource to best advantage is highly relevant. Material drawn upon for the survey of the 1955-56 probationers, (223 in all), included probation branch files, (particularly the social histories contained therein), correspondence with probation officers throughout the province and correspondence with the Royal Canadian Mounted Police. The variables selected for further analysis were: age at start of probation; marital status and number of dependents; nature of the instant offence; number of previous convictions and extent of incarceration; type of investigation carried out by the officer and the assessment of the offender's suitability for probation; and steadiness of employment while on probation. A short follow-up check on the offenders' post-probation success was carried out. The first product of the study is a descriptive profile of the probation clientele, giving a clearer picture of those who the service is set up to serve. Second, the relating of selected characteristics to outcome of case is a first step toward providing some limited predictive guides to assist the officer who is attempting to foresee how the offender will do on probation. The follow-up check served to balance what otherwise might be an unrealistically high success rate. The "profile" of probation clientele reveals that the group investigated appears not markedly different from the general population of British Columbia judged by place of birth, level of education, physical health, work habits and number of siblings. Some possible variations from the general British Columbia populace are noted in that the group may have contained a higher proportion of young people, persons with no dependents, single persons, unskilled workers, persona with a background of broken parental relationships, and in that all the group were males. The variables related to outcome of case that seem to be of greatest significance include: steadiness of employment while on probation, extent of previous criminal record, marital status, and nature of the instant offence. Of the 221 cases ending their probation period either successfully or unsuccessfully 185, (83.7 per cent), were successful. Of these 185 cases 77.3 per cent still had no new record of convictions when the follow-up check was completed in February, 1959. Several implications of the study are discussed. The need for adequate presentence investigation is stressed. The expansion of adult probation services in Canada is urged, -with a cautionary note that geographical and numerical expansion must not be substituted for quality in the services. The Federal Government can perhaps facilitate expansion of the service by intervening into the area of adult probation as a standard setting body. There is a need for a closer working relationship between the courts and welfare agencies, public and private.

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