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Over the past ten years, the concept of risk has moved to centre stage in criminological spheres. Risk assessment and the concern for effective management of offenders while safe guarding public safety has become a core issue for criminal justice agencies. This research focuses on risk assessment and probation practice in Ireland. In particular, the attitudes of practicing basic grade probation officers' working on adult community teams in Dublin are examined to gain insight into the complexities experienced by probation officers. Specifically, the research aims to highlight the consequences of adopting standardised risk tools on probation practice. The research discusses current theoretical arguments on the influence of risk in criminal justice and outlines the impact of risk discourse on probation practice in Ireland and elsewhere. Using a mix of qualitative and quantitative methods of data collection, probation officers' attitudes are examined and presented thematically in order to highlight key issues facing probation officers when making risk decisions. The findings identify positive and negative consequences of adopting risk tools and points to the continued salience of clinical judgement over actuarial methods of risk assessment. It is argued that due to a lack of information and inadequate training, probation officers are placed in positions of failure. It is suggested that in order to improve accountability and credibility of the probation service, defensible decisions regarding risk assessment are paramount.
Richardson, Michelle: Risky Business: An Examination of Probation Officers' Attitudes towards Risk Assessment:Masters Dissertation. Dublin, DIT, September 2008