Gentrification and Probation: A Study of North Lawndale
Globokar, Julie L.
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There are more individuals on probation in the United States than under all other forms of correctional supervision combined, and yet probation has historically received the least attention from researchers. Given the prevalence of criminal justice control in poor, inner-city communities, and the move toward gentrification in many of these disadvantaged areas, this study aimed to better understand whether gentrification has an impact upon the work of probation officers through a study of the Chicago community of North Lawndale. Descriptive statistics and field observations were used to supplement the findings of twenty-seven interviews conducted with officers at the Cook County Adult Probation Department (CCAPD) who had some experience working in Lawndale. While gentrification had largely stalled by the conclusion of this study, probation officers’ accounts of their work throughout Chicago provided some insight into the impact of community context on probation work. Officers did feel that their clients were impacted by neighborhood conditions, and reported that clients were often reliant upon community agencies for the fulfillment of court-ordered conditions. Officers saw the potential for gentrification to provide their clients with access to new resources, but more commonly felt that their clients would instead be displaced. When asked whether the department might play an active role in helping their clients take connect with new community resources, most officers reported having very little opportunity to network with agencies or employers due to the structure of their duties. Officers generally described bureaucratic demands on their time which formed a “culture of verification,” a culture which is neither strongly enforcement- nor treatment-oriented, but rather focused upon verifying offenders’ compliance with conditions and keeping up with the related paperwork. It appears that gentrification, while significant for clients, is unlikely to have a significant impact upon the day-to-day work of officers within this departmental context.