Background: Limited available evidence suggests that offenders with intellectual disabilities (ID) constitute a significant minority among probationers. Yet, little is known about how probation officers negotiate competing structural demands when supervising and managing this population. The author seeks to address this gap by focussing on the assessment proceedings by which probationers are evaluated in their criminogenic needs. It is envisaged that this will help to shed light on the decision-making by probation officers when engaging with probationers with ID. Method: This paper is based on qualitative methods. In total six semi-structured, in-depth interviews were conducted with probation officers from the English North-West region. The data were analysed using the modified Grounded Theory approach. Findings: Three main themes emerged during the course of the analyses; revolving around the identification of probationers with ID, how ID is contextualised by probation officers during risk assessment activities, and role of ID in determining the outcomes of supervision. The data of this paper suggest that the proceedings used by the probation service to risk-assess and supervise offenders in the community promote positivist thought around culpability, intent and guilt. As a consequence, offenders with ID are at risk of being inaccurately assessed in their needs by the probation service, which increases the likelihood of this population being incorrectly managed and supervised. In conclusion, the assessment tools utilized by the probation service appear to favour measures of control and discipline over self-advocacy, thereby significantly increasing the risk for offenders with ID to be drawn into and processed through the criminal justice system.
Published Date: 2021-02-22; Received Date: 2021-02-01