Governing Marginality: Coercion and Care in Probation

Michelle S. Phelps, Ebony L. Ruhland

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

36 Scopus citations

Abstract

While the scale and consequences of mass incarceration in the United States have been well-documented over the past two decades, sociologists have focused less attention on mass probation and the expansion of community supervision. Originally designed as a rehabilitative alternative to imprisonment, probation represents the largest form of penal control and a critical intersection between criminal justice and welfare - two systems that govern citizens at the margins. We analyze qualitative data from over 100 focus groups conducted in 2016-2017 with adults on probation and probation officers in several jurisdictions across the country to show the enmeshing of coercion and care in probation. Drawing on the concept of carceral citizenship, we detail the duties, burdens, and perverse benefits of supervision across four domains: relationships with probation officers, access to services and programs, time and financial constrictions, and the threat of revocation (or incarceration for non-compliance). We argue that probation provides barebones welfare services for some of the most vulnerable adults, while also imposing the unique harms of a criminal record, burdens of supervision, and risk of incarceration.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)799-816
Number of pages18
JournalSocial Problems
Volume69
Issue number3
DOIs
StatePublished - Aug 1 2022

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Thanks to Joshua Page, Joe Soss, Fergus McNeill, Jennifer Carlson, Ashley Rubin, Kathleen Hull, Evan Roberts, Elizabeth Wrigley- Field, and Amber Joy Powell for thoughtful suggestions and critiques. Brenda Sanchez Murillo, Aaron Coggins, and Jordan Lewis provided excellent research assistance, supported by the TRIO McNair Scholars and the Dean's Freshman Research and Creative Scholars programs at the University of Minnesota. The Robina Foundation provided support for the data collection, which was conducted by the Robina Institute of Criminal Law and Criminal Justice. Thanks also to our respondents for generously sharing their time and experiences.

Funding Information:
Thanks to Joshua Page, Joe Soss, Fergus McNeill, Jennifer Carlson, Ashley Rubin, Kathleen Hull, Evan Roberts, Elizabeth Wrigley-Field, and Amber Joy Powell for thoughtful suggestions and critiques. Brenda Sanchez Murillo, Aaron Coggins, and Jordan Lewis provided excellent research assistance, supported by the TRIO McNair Scholars and the Dean's Freshman Research and Creative Scholars programs at the University of Minnesota. The Robina Foundation provided support for the data collection, which was conducted by the Robina Institute of Criminal Law and Criminal Justice. Thanks also to our respondents for generously sharing their time and experiences.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021 The Author(s).

Keywords

  • criminal justice
  • inequality
  • probation
  • punishment
  • welfare

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