American Journal of Criminal Justice

, Volume 21, Issue 1, pp 1-25

First online:

Meet the new boss: Institutional change and loose coupling in parole and probation

  • Richard McCorkleAffiliated withDepartment of Criminal Justice, University of Nevada
  • , John P. CrankAffiliated withBoise State University

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The authors use the institutional theory of organizations to argue that historical changes in parole and probation are ceremonial in the sense that they are aimed at an institutional audience and have had little effect on the day-to-day work of line-level officers. A review of the history of community corrections in the US suggests that parole and probation can be described in four eras, each era marked by a particular pattern of institutional authority and by corresponding changes in the structure, goals, and policies of parole and probation. By loosely coupling the work of street-level parole and probation agents to organizational goals and policies and minimizing caseload problems via surveillance and information-gathering techniques, the day-to-day activity of parole and probation officers has been largely unaffected.