There appeared in the National Press the other day a statement that &dquo; probation was a failure ... &dquo; This is a grave indictment which none of us will be prepared to accept. But the fact remains that there is an essence of truth in it. We need to stop and examine and, if necessary criticise, not the theory of probation, but its application.We can then try to discover whether in actual practice the technique of probation work lags woefully behind the accepted theories of what good probation work ought to be.If magistrates and probation oicers really want to protect Society and help the offenders it will readily be admitted that a preliminary social investigation ought to be made. This should include a mental and physical examination of the offender, a report on his social history and religious background, his family and home conditions, and the circumstances of the offence. Theprobation officer should also be in a position to make recommendations as to treatment.In very few courts are thorough social investigations made.The result is that not only are persons placed on probation who are unfitted for it but also that those who might benefit from probation are otherwise treated. Further the failure to obtain sufficient information regarding offenders results in probation officers lacking enough facts to diagnose the needs of the probationers placed under their care and to build up intelligent plans for their treatment.Unless we know what we desire to accomplish in a particular case, valuable time is lost, and the probationer and Society are cheated. Failure to make adequate plans for our probationers is one of the weaknesses of the system. How many probation offices work out a plan of treatment when a person is placed under their supervision ?Is not our treatment of probationers still in general a sort of hit or miss method? Do we not sometimes wonder if the probationer would not have made equally intelligent adjustments without the kind of aid he receives from some of us?Good case work consists of definite constructive efforts to help probationers by means of guidance, home visiting, etc. A constant endeavour should be made to vary the methods of treatment to meet the special needs of each individual, to better his conditions, and to develop a more personal and intimate study of, and contact with, him.It is often true that it is in the actual treatment that probation lags behind the accepted theories of what good probation work should be.
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