American Journal of Criminal Justice

, Volume 43, Issue 2, pp 267–277 | Cite as

Probation Officers’ Perceptions of Supervising Probationers with Mental Illness in Rural and Urban Settings

  • Tonya B. Van Deinse
  • Gary S. Cuddeback
  • Amy Blank Wilson
  • Stacey E. Burgin


As part of a larger study of probation workload and workforce challenges in one southeastern state, this study reports the results from a statewide survey of probation officers’ experiences supervising probationers with mental illness. A total of 615 officers responded to closed- and open-ended questions about the challenges and barriers to supervising offenders with mental illness, and the responses of officers from rural versus urban settings were compared. Officers reported that probationers with mental illness are difficult to supervise and supervision challenges are exacerbated by a scarcity of mental health and substance abuse treatment resources, limited social support, and a lack of employment opportunities for this population of probationers. Officers report unique and similar challenges across rural and urban settings. This study contributes to our understanding of the challenges of supervising probationers with mental illness and informs practice, policy and research at the interface of the criminal justice and mental health systems.


Probation Mental illness Barriers Challenges 


Compliance with Ethical Standards


This project was supported by funding from the North Carolina Department of Public Safety.

Conflict of Interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Ethical Approval

All procedures performed in this study were approved by the university’s institutional review board.

Informed Consent

Informed consent was obtained by all participants in this study.


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Copyright information

© Southern Criminal Justice Association 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  • Tonya B. Van Deinse
    • 1
  • Gary S. Cuddeback
    • 1
  • Amy Blank Wilson
    • 1
  • Stacey E. Burgin
    • 1
  1. 1.School of Social Work, University of North Carolina at Chapel HillChapel HillUSA

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