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This study surveyed probation and parole officers in Missouri and Kentucky to determine their supervision styles along a “casework to surveillance” continuum. These self-ratings were correlated with officer self-reports of how they spend their time on the job engaged in various casework or surveillance activities. Additionally, volunteering officers were interviewed to provide clarification on their perceptions regarding the distinctions between a casework approach and a surveillance approach. Results indicate that officers spend more of their time engaged in casework activities, but perceive themselves as more surveillance oriented. Style varied significantly by sex of officer, with female officers spending significantly more time than male officers engaged in casework activities. Caseload size and type were related to style, as well. Interviews indicated that officers believe a surveillance style as necessary for community protection, but recognize the need for a balanced approach. This study has provided a way to quantify supervision styles and can be used to conduct future investigations about the impact of supervision style on client outcomes (i.e., successful reintegration or recidivism).


This is an Author’s Accepted Manuscript of an article published in West, A. D., & Seiter, R. P. (2004). Social worker or cop? Measuring the supervision styles of probation & parole officers in Kentucky and Missouri. Journal of Crime and Justice, 27(2), 27-57 as published in the JOURNAL OF CRIME AND JUSTICE, 2004, copyright Taylor & Francis, available online at: