Criminal Justice Organizations and Development the Leadership Theories

Nowadays, women, who work as probation officers and hold the leading positions, face the considerable challenges. They are based on gender specifications, greater level of experienced stresses, and unequal treatment. The current work would provide the description and the analysis of the work of females on the positions of probation officers and leaders of probation departments. Much attention will be paid to the historical trends of women serving in the given criminal justice organizations and development the leadership theories, which form the leadership styles. This information forms the background for the understanding of the current ethical issues and their reflections towards the coworkers and criminals. The consideration of the work of females as probation officers and leaders in probation organizations and challenges, which arise during the performance of their responsibilities, enables to develop the effective approach based on the recent leadership theories for mitigation of such challenges.

Historical Development

The history of probation and the role of women in it are long and complicated. Vanstone Maurice (2004) noted that the first references to the issue appeared in the records of courts in the Massachusetts colony and illustrate that “the seventeenth century use of what looks like probation” (Vanstone, 2004, p. 2). The function of the modern probation officers was realized by bishop’s clerks who provided their opinion and assessment of a prisoner’s eligibility. However, women started serving as probation officers much later. Vanstone Maurice states that the first female probation officer was Miss Burnham, who worked in Boston in the second half of the 19th century (Vanstone, 2004).

During this time period, criminal justice agencies and probation officers where under the considerable influence of the recently emerged great man theory that assumes that the great leaders are born, but not made (Doss et al., 2015). It means that managerial skills could not be developed in course of time, as leadership is based on the personal attributes and inspiration. However, the development of the social though leads to the replacement of the great man theory by the trait theory in 1930s, under which “people are either born of are made with certain qualities that will make them excel in leadership roles” (Doss et al., 2015, p.339). The society starts understanding that the necessary skills can be developed, thus every person irrespective of the inborn characteristics can become an effective leader. Such change forms the background of the moderation and elimination of the discrimination practices, which existed in the criminal justice agencies.

Numerous women who worked on this position experienced discrimination and harassment reflected in gossiping, giving unfair work, etc. (Freiburger and Marum, 2016). It was based on their gender, age, and ethnicity. Nevertheless, the situation changed in the 1964 after the passing of the Civil Rights Act that prohibited the unequal treatment of representatives of different genders, ages, races, and religions (Freiburger and Marum, 2016). The additional attention should be paid to the passing of the Equal Pay Act in 1963 that prohibits the payment discrimination based on worker’s gender. This document helps overcome the differences in treatment of males and females within the criminal justice system. Regardless of the fact that at the current moment the American society proclaims the war on the discrimination and this matter is widely condemned, women, holding such positions, still face discrimination. Michelle Durand covered the issue of the race discrimination in his article The Daily Journal in 2011 and Gary Klien (2009) described the case of unequal attitude based on age and bias of the female probation officer in her article in the Marin Independent Journal. However, nowadays, the discrimination is less sharp and in the majority of cases females are provided by the equal abilities to place the top positions in the criminal justice system.

The additional attention should be paid to the fact that the discrimination practices were also highly influenced by behavioral theory that emerged in 1940s and 1950s (Doss et al., 2015). The major focus was made of the physical and mental traits and strict orientation on the production or employee. The production-oriented leadership is expressed by strict standardization of work and definition of tasks for the assurance of the following prescribed working methods. The employee-oriented leadership style is reflected to the higher extent in participation and orientation on employees’ experience during setting the working tasks.

However, the greatest influence on the further development of leadership in criminal justice agencies was made by the contingency theory that appeared in the 1960s (Doss et al., 2015). According to it, the expressed leadership styles may change depending on the situations and internal characteristics of employees or criminals. Its popularity and effectiveness is based on the fact that leaders and departments may change their goals and actions in response to any changes in both internal and external environments. The contingency theory pays much attention to the communication and feedbacks as they allow determining the existing issues and making timely predictions for the effective management. It is especially important in the law enforcement agencies, which are considered as institutions that provide the first and the strongest response during emergency situations and social problems. Thus, the further development of the probation is closely connected to the given theory.

Nowadays, the researches focus on studying the transformational theory that appeared in late 1970s (Doss et al., 2015). It makes the emphasis on the unity of leaders and followers for the improvement of the inspiration and motivation directed at reaching set goals and targets. The theory is usually used for the inception and forcing of changes, instead of developing and reaching the global strategies of criminal justice agencies.

During the consideration of the history of women’s serving on the position of the probation officer, the additional attention should be paid to the current issue of leadership in the probation offices and its perception by the society. It dates back to the early 1990s, when the majority of states increased their efforts in granting the public safety by means of incapacitation (Reinventing Probation Council, 2000). It was reflected in the sharpening of limitations conditions for juveniles by, for example, “enhanced penalties and mandatory terms of confinement for youth who commit serious acts of violence” (Reinventing Probation Council, 2000, p.4). Nowadays, the crisis in the probation system is reflected in the social conviction that the existing system does not provide the effective response in regard to the crime issue, even considering the fact of significant lowering of the crime rate. People express fear and skepticism regarding the ability of probation officers to provide effective protection and assurance of the safety. The strengths of this opinion is granted by the fact that despite “the recent post-1993 drop in crime is” the number of committed crimes in the current moment is two times higher than in 1950s and 1960s (Reinventing Probation Council, 2000). Thus, the society considers that the probation officers should express more leadership skills in the defining of crime prevention (Reinventing Probation Council, 2000). Such statement is supported by the empirical evidence of probationer recidivism stating that the majority of probationers are engaged in the commitment of the repeated crimes during the period of three years after the obtaining of their sentence (Reinventing Probation Council, 2000). Consequently, in the 21st century, the improvement of the leadership skills and the increasing effectiveness of work are among the primary objectives of probation officers, both men and women.

Research and Analysis

The current work will provide the understanding and analysis of the distinct characteristics of the work of women on positions of probation officers. These people perform the supervision of offenders released form incarceration or given the nun-custodial sanctions (for example, community services). Probation officers are also obliged to provide assistance with problems (such as, substance abuse and uncontrolled anger), which may cause the repentance of the negative behavior. In contrast to probation officers, they seldom render help connected to the reentering the society. Sometimes, probation officers are responsible for making special reports concerning observed offenders and providing recommendations to courts. They are usually based on the behavior of criminal rather than on such factors as age, intelligence rating, and previous records (Forncrook, 1924).
The work of probation officers is connected to constant dangers and stresses, as they supervise the life and actions of people who already convicted crimes and could do it one day again. They can be intimidated by the extent of power the probation officer has over them and their freedom. Their anger may become even greater, if they would suspend that the probation officer would make undesired recommendations (including sending the criminal to prison). Such situation may stipulate the causation of harm to officer.

The observation of criminals’ lives is also dangerous, as they usually tend to have close relationships with other criminals who can interpret the work of probation officer as interference for their own criminal activities and cause harm to the criminal justice employees. The additional attention should be paid to the danger that is connected to the visiting of the homes of offenders, considering the fact that in such places criminals have easier accesses to weapons. Officers usually go to such houses alone and have no any additional protection. Moreover, these houses may be located in a bad neighborhood that may also constitute the danger. Female probation officers are in greater danger in this situation as they can be treated as potential victims not only due to their profession, but also due to their gender.

Usually, the above-mentioned tasks should be accomplished in the conditions of the shrinking budgets, low occupation prestige, societal and public scrutiny, growing dissatisfaction, and considerable workloads (Pitts, 2007). All these factors cause significant stresses. Moreover, the extent of such stresses depends greatly on various factors that would be noted below.

One of the most significant factors is the gender of probation officer. Terry Wells, Sharla Colbert, and Risdon N. Slate (2006) noted in their study that women tend to experience higher level of physical stresses than men on the described position. At the same time, they suffer from internal stresses, as well as personal and job stresses to the lower extent compared to men (Wells, Colbert, and Slate, 2006). The higher levels of reported physical stresses can be explained by the fact that females tend to report their physical conditions, while males express greater possibility not to do it due to the existing “social stigma and their fear to be perceived as weak or vulnerable” (Lutze, 2014, p. 137). The greater physical stresses may also be associated with the fact that women working in men environment are not always equally treated and respected (Lutze, 2014).

The second factor that will be considered in the current work is the personal attitude to the working conditions and experienced difficulties. The special web-based survey evidenced that there is a considerable difference between taking on stress and its manifestation between men and women. The males’ stress usually has the sternal reflection in the form of alcohol and drug abuse, violent behavior and emotional outbursts, while females tend to show more internal reflection in the form of eating and sleeping disorders (Pitts and Herman, 2011).

The extent of work-related stresses also depends greatly on the educational preparation to the job. The special study described by Wayne J. Pitts (2007) evidences that the probation and parole officers who have the feeling of lack of educational preparation usually experience more occupational stresses than those who feel themselves more prepared to the dangerous work.

The relationships between stress and gender for probation/parole officers (Pitts and Herman, 2011). These authors noted that female officers tend to have higher level of education, lower age, and fewer dependences in comparison to their male colleagues. They usually place the supervisor positions regardless of the fact that they tend to work less in this sphere of criminal justice system (Pitts and Herman, 2011). The reasons of the shorter work are not specified, however, it can be assumed that they are connected to the gender distinct characteristics, higher physical stresses, and leadership challenges, which will be described below.

Leadership Challenges

Currently, there are more men on leadership positions in the criminal justice organizations (including probation offices) than females (Kumari, Caulfield, L and Newberry, 2012). It is connected to the male leadership style and more narrow approach. The strict following to the established standards and rules form the understanding that male leaders in probation are more production-oriented. It can lead to the faster reaching of the set targets and accurate fulfilment of tasks and strategies. Compared to males, females are more sensitive and usually pay more attention to the distinct features of each situation. They are more likely to give the criminals the second change, when male officers try to bring them back to the prison faster (Hogger, 2015). It forms the understanding that female leaders in probation are also more employee-oriented, i.e. they focus on the distinct characteristics of every probation officer during assigning tasks and imposition of punishments. It can lead to the decreased productivity and more frequent breaking of set rules.

Moreover, the attention should also be paid to the fact that some of the characteristics of female behavior prevent them from holding leading positions in the discussed field of criminal justice. The preconceived incompatibilities between family and career goals are reflected in the inability to effectively combine the role of a good wife and mother with the role of a professional worker. Thus, the demand to perform the multiple roles is also connected to the increased primary and secondary stresses. The first ones are reflected in the constant expectation of danger and injury, when the second traumatic stresses refer to the personal exposure to various traumatic events.

One of the major leadership issues that would be described in the current work is that women are usually misconducted as effective leaders and managers (Stronsider, 1978). Regardless of the fact that the official discrimination as per gender is prohibited on the territory of the USA since 1964, the articles presented above support the idea that it still exists. Moreover, current recruitment, hiring and promotion policies still form the considerable barriers for females who intend to occupy leading positions (Stronsider, 1978). Julian Barling (2014) states that women leaders fell in grace more often than male leaders do. The author provided the outcomes of the official research that shows that female leaders are less likely to find themselves on top positions than being dismissed in case of poor working performance (Barling, 2014). It shows that women parole officers are tend to be dismissed from their positions that can lead to the considerable discipline ethical issues.

The discipline in the work of probation officers is connected to constant dealing with criminals and their actions, i.e. good and evil, morality and immorality. The distinct women’s characteristics reflected in the more sensitive and moderate attitude to offenders (noted above) and susceptibility to stresses can lead to inability to conduct the high level of ethnicity. Moreover, as it was mentioned above, the work of probation officers is under the constant observation of the society that constantly evaluates their actions. Brian Byers (2002) noted that stresses, dismissal, and other “cognitive processes and the socialization” forced the development of the unethical development among the representatives of criminal justice (Byers, 2002). Such behavior can be expressed in the form of corruption, and lack of consistency.

The above mentioned factors may form the considerable challenged for women in the consistent adherence to the established rules and regulations. In turn, it can lead to the treatment of others with the insufficient respect and bending the rules for conveniences. Thus, women who express such behavior may be perceived as employees whose ethics and morale is just a public image. Consequently, it can lead to the unwillingness of colleagues of the women-leader to discuss other critical ethical issues which may arise during the performance of their daily responsibilities.

Female leaders in probation may face inadequate perception by the colleagues, criminals, and society due to their district characteristics, which form their behavior, existing discrimination practices, and higher extent of stresses, which they experience during conducting their responsibilities.


Leadership issues of female probation officers can be addressed by the adaptation of several strategies. The first one should be directed at the further elimination of gender discrimination at working places. It can be reached by sharpening the policy directed at eliminating unequal treatment, i.e. straitening the penalties for their breaches. The second strategy would aim at addressing the high extent of physical stresses experienced by the female probation leaders. It can be reached by the introduction of special psychotherapies or stipulation of the closer work with psychologists. During the therapies, the emphasis should be made on the necessity to simultaneously perform multiple roles, such as employee of the criminal justice agency and mother/wife. The issues which may be connected to the performance of the employee-oriented style of leadership can be moderated by the development and introduction of sharper requirements to strict following of the established procedures by both the leaders and the followers. The last issue that was mentioned in the current work was social convict concerning the fact that the current system does not provide the effective response on crimes. It can be addressed by the increasing of the emphasis on the public safety, raising the standards and sharpening the supervision of probationers, more effective allocation of the resources, and development, and realization of the performance-based initiatives (Reinventing Probation Council, 2000).

All the above mentioned strategies can be realized through the effective combination of the contingency and transformational leadership approaches. On the one hand, it would help improve the control over the criminals and the employees of the probation officers, set sharper targets, and perform more accurate observation over their performance. On the other hand, it would provide the faster and more efficient rectification of any challenges, such as social conviction or unequal treatment.


To summarize, the work of female probation officers is connected to numerous specifics and challenging situations. They have their roots in the existing inequality that was officially prohibited only in the second half of the 20th century but still exists in the criminal justice organizations. The prohibition of the discrimination can be connected to the development of the leadership theories and formation of the understanding that some qualities necessary for the serving as the probation officer and holding the leading positions can be trained over time. Currently, the major challenges of females who obtain the chosen positions are connected to their bias characteristics, higher experience of physical stress, emotional style of leadership, discrimination, and dissatisfaction of the society due to the insufficient assurance of safety. They can be addressed by the more effective use of the joined contingency and transformational leadership approaches.

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