This study examined the influence of social context on punishment decisions, presenting a theoretical framework to identify outcomes that can occur when police and probation officers work in schools.
The proposed framework drew on organizational theory and scholarship on school discipline and punishment, as well as the effects of placing officers in schools. It also drew from insights gathered from site visits, interviews, and focus groups conducted as part of a process evaluation of a school-based delinquency prevention program. Data were obtained from interviews and focus groups with 41 school-based safety staff to examine the plausibility of the hypothesized framework. The study found that officers’ goals interacted with the goals of school-based actors to influence punishment-related outcomes. It also found that officers were not always the more punitive force in the schools and that placing officers in schools may have had positive as well as negative effects for youth. Overall, the findings suggest that current accounts of officers in schools are incomplete. Dynamic interactions may occur within organizational partnerships and should be considered when seeking to understand punishment decisions not only in schools but also in other settings. (publisher abstract modified)
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