Probation policy and practice with vulnerable women
: a focus on the challenges of organisational and personal change for women workers and women service users

  • Rachel Goldhill

Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


The central theme of this thesis is an analysis of probation worker practices when managing women service users. Research took place in two probation trusts during the period immediately preceding the formal implementation of the Transforming Rehabilitation initiative. Some implications of the changes were already becoming apparent. The PhD investigates the probation process, using converging methodological approaches to look at how practitioners (including probation officers, probation service officers and women’s centre workers) make decisions about the women under their supervision, what resources are available to them, and what happens during the supervision interviews, which are at the core of probation work. Tensions between gender-responsive approaches and institutional constraints are highlighted.
Literature on the place of women involved with the criminal justice system is investigated, as well as the influence of feminist academics in raising awareness of discrimination within criminal justice agencies relating to vulnerable women and female workers.. Commentators whose writings have progressed relevant debates are explored, against the backdrop of the ideologically-based principles of Transforming Rehabilitation.
I analyse empirical data from research interviews with practitioners and women service users, participant observation and, uniquely, the videoing of supervision sessions. Alongside a combination of different methodological techniques of enquiry and analysis, involving thematic, case study and discourse analysis, an original contribution is made, identifying themes and patterns which offer an improved understanding of supervisory interactions. The main arguments of the thesis, deriving from a rich data collection and detailed analysis, are the difficulties in instituting supportive gender-responsive practices designed to bring about real change in the lives of women under probation supervision. A focus is also on the broader political measures for probation employees through privatisation and the social impact of austerity cuts. These changes render women workers in particular increasingly vulnerable to worsening work-place conditions and demonstrate how these pressures also affect facilitative one-to-one interventions.
Date of AwardDec 2018
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • University of Portsmouth
SupervisorJacki Tapley (Supervisor) & Michael Nash (Supervisor)

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