The present paper aims to address, in an exploratory manner, the probation counsellors’ perspective in Romania and the Republic of Moldova, regarding their own professional practice. The central purpose of this micro-research is to verify the plausibility and generalization of the main results of the research
Keywords: Probation counselorsocial construction of the professionmodel validationRomaniaRepublic of Moldova
Introducing probation as restorative practice aims to alter the sense of the punishment, from power strategy (Foucault, 2005), to strategy of creating consensus at social level. The current research aims to satisfy the interest for knowledge, referring to the potential impact of certain institutions newly introduced in the Romanian and Moldavian social space. Probation can be considered a non-custodial alternative to the retributive custodial paradigm. Introducing probation as an alternative to the custodial punishment aims, from a socio-economic perspective, to reduce the social costs of imprisonment. The context of the social construction is represented by the continuous changes in the last 25 years, after the fall of communism in both countries, of the institutional discourse referring to the relationship with the Alterity – hereby the people condemned.
Within the context of the complex research
In the above mentioned research there were developed a series of results with value of hypotheses for the current micro-research:
The research questions subsume around the central question: can the model of social construction of the profession of probation counsellor, being obtained inductively, within the research
Purpose of the Study
The purpose of the micro-research Perspectives of the probation counsellors on the professional practice is to check the plausibility and generalization of the main results of the research Axes of the social construction of the profession of probation counsellor (Sandu, 2016a; Sandu, Ignatescu, 2017) and to clarify the adherence of the probation counsellors in the two countries to the model built within it.
Starting from the results obtained, a survey addressed to the probation counsellors in the two countries was developed and applied on-line, using the Google platform. We have sent an invitation through e-mail to all services/offices of probation in Romania and the Republic of Moldova. The survey is formed of 18 closed questions, referring to the specific and importance of the professional formation as probation counsellor, the specific of the professional activity and the types of activities carried out, the institutional relationships between the probation services/the probation counsellor and other professionals involved in the area of justice administration, the relationship of the services/probation office with the civil society, the constitutive and operational ethical values of the profession of probation counsellor and the adherence of the professionals to the retributive/restorative model of functioning of the probation services/offices. The online survey was answered by 24 probation counsellors in Romania (14 females and 10 males), and 34 from the Republic of Moldova (25 females and 9 males).
The small sample size – the small number of probation counsellors who have accepted to fill-in the online form makes this micro-research not be credited with statistic validity. The way of on-line application, the small number of probation counsellors existing in the system – 350 in Romania, made the number of respondents be low, therefore not allowing a real statistical analysis of the data. However, we mention that the respondents represent approximately 7% of the number of probation counsellors in the system at the time of the survey.
57% of the respondents in Romania and 9% of those in the Republic of Moldova have an experience in the field greater than 10 years, 30% of the respondents in Romania and 48% of those in the Republic of Moldova being in the system for a period of time between 5 and 10 years, and the rest of 13% in Romania and 41% in Moldova have an experience of less than 5 years, 2% of the respondents in the Republic of Moldova refused to answer this question. Regarding the professional preparation: 36% of the respondents in Romania and 48% of those in the Republic of Moldova stated that they are graduates of the Faculty of Law; 29% of the respondents in Romania and 5% of those in the Republic of Moldova are graduates of the Faculty of Social Work; 16% of the respondents in Romania and 11% of those in the Republic of Moldova graduated from the Faculty of Psychology; 13% of the respondents in Romania and 21% of those in the Republic of Moldova graduated from a Masters in Probation, 6% of the respondents in Romania and 7% of those in the Republic of Moldova stating that they graduated from certain short-time courses in the field of probation.
We notice a significant difference between the practitioners in Romania and in the Republic of Moldova regarding the initial training. Although in both countries, the initial training of the respondents is mainly juridical, in Moldova, the prevalence of those with legal experience is close to 50%, while in Romania, the proportion of those who declared having a background in social work is greater than in the Republic of Moldova, which can partially explain the different emphasis on the importance of communication – nonformal and interpersonal, among the respondents in Romania, namely formal, institutional and institutionalized in the case of the respondents in Moldova. The number of respondents who declare having followed a Master’s programme in the field is rather low in both countries, which can support the idea of the necessity of certain programs of training in the Universities in both countries, preferably even programs based on the inter-institutional cooperation between the institutions of higher education in the two countries, such as
Regarding the way in which knowledge in the field of “social work” is important for the professional activity of the probation counsellor, 52% of the respondents in Romania and 69% of the respondents in the Republic of Moldova admitted that this is important or very important; 30% of the respondents in Romania and 27% of those in the Republic of Moldova said is not important, nor unimportant; 9% of the respondents in Romania and 4% of those in the Republic of Moldova said that the initial training in the area of social care is little or very little important.
The answers received to these surveys support the hypothesis – resulted from the study
The importance of legal knowledge is considered even greater than of that in the field of social work, the great majority of the respondents agreeing to it. Regarding the perceived importance of knowledge in the field of “psychology” for the professional activity of the probation counselors , none of the respondents in Romania and only 2% of those in the Republic of Moldova said that is little or very less important, 22% of the respondents in Romania and 5% of those in the Republic of Moldova saying that it is not important, nor unimportant; while 65% of the respondents in Romania and 93% of the respondents in the Republic of Moldova stated that this knowledge is important or very important.
We notice a significant difference in the direction of the Moldavian respondents, regarding their preference for the field of psychology, which for our respondents in Moldova, exceeds in perceived importance the knowledge in the field of law and social work. The results obtained regarding the perceived importance of knowledge in the different professional areas allows us to consider as plausible the hypothesis generated by the study
The results to the three questions support the model developed, in terms of transdisciplinarity of probation and its self-empowerment. To the question reffering to which of the activities specific to the probation counsellor have the respondents beein involved in, they show that: 19% (RO) and 18% (MD) are involved in elaborating the reports of pre-sentential evaluation; 19% (RO) and 27% (MD) are involved in the supervision of people convicted with suspension; 8% (RO) and 15% (MD) are involved in the supervision of people released under parole; 16% (RO) and 9% (MD) are involved in the supervision of minors serving an educational penalty; 14% (RO) and 9% (MD) are involved in programs of social reintegration; 13% (RO) and 6% (MD) are involved in participating in the parole release committees; 2% (RO) and 1% (MD) are involved in mediating the victim-criminal relationship; 9% (RO) and 7% (MD) are involved in working with people in prison; 8% (MD) have not expressed their opinion.
Although the dispersion of answers can be considered significant, we must take into account that the question has multiple answers, and that practically by reporting to the number of respondents and not of valid answers, we obtain a high level of uniformity of answers, because it confirms the hypothesis according to which there is no clear specialization of the probation counsellors in one or other of the activities, each of the counsellors being able to develop any of the professional specific activities. One of the attributions, such as the participation in the committee of parole, have a smaller level of representation in the weight of the activity of counselling, precisely because they are not performed at the level of all Directorates/Offices of Probation – in our example, because in a certain county there is no prison, so they don’t participate in committees of parole release.
There is, however, observed a greater specialization of the counsellors in Moldova, where at the level of the Probation Offices, there is such a distribution of tasks. Activities such those of mediating the victim-offender relationship are not represented, namely because this attribution, although specific for probation in other countries, is not assigned to the probation counsellors in the two countries. To the question
The fact that almost all respondents – probation counsellors – describe the relationships with the beneficiaries as being good or very good, may signify an appreciation of the models of communication between the counsellor and the supervised person, and allows us to consider that the number of situations of failure in the practice of probation in the two countries, is limited. The respondents evaluate the relationships with the instances of trial in appreciative terms, of which 87% (RO) and 87% (MD) considering it to be good and very good, no respondent in Romania and only 2% (MD) as being little or very less good, the rest of 13% (RO) and 11% (MD) considering that it is not good, nor less good.
Regarding the question on the relationship between the probation counsellor and the representatives of the public authorities – the respondents 4% (RO) said that the relationship is a little good; none of the respondents from the Republic of Moldova said that their relationship with the representative of other public institutions with whom they have a relationship of services, is little or very less good, 35% (RO) and 27% (MD) said that the relationship is acceptably good; 48% (RO) and 43% (MD) said that the relationship is good; 13% (RO) and 30% (MD) said that the relationship is very good.
Being asked to evaluate the relationship they have as probation counsellors and representatives of the civil society (ONG) – 78% (RO) and 63% (MD) qualified it as being good and very good, only % (RO) and 14% (MD) declaring it to be little or very less good, while 18% (RO) and 18% (MD) are undecided, choosing the middle value, coded by us as being
We notice that there are differences that can be considered significant between the respondents in the two countries, regarding the relationship of the probation counsellors with the police, the respondents in Romania being reserved in a proportion of 23%, but don’t express their negative opinions regarding this collaboration, while the Moldavian respondents criticize it in a significant proportion.
The relationship between the representatives of the penitentiary is seen as being good and very good by 83% (RO) and 54% (MD), while no Romanian respondents, and 54% of those from the Republic of Moldova consider it to be little or very less good, namely 14% (RO) and 24% (MD) are undecided. Again, we notice significant differences between the respondents of the two countries, the probation counsellors in Moldova being less satisfied by the communication with the representatives of the penitentiaries.
Consistently analysing the answers to the questions regarding the relationship between the probation counsellors and the representatives of other state institutions they collaborate with, in developing activities, them confirming the assumption generated in the study
To the question
Although the Moldavian respondents are pronounced in a higher percentage in favour of the institutional communication, the results confirm only partially the hypothesis according to which the probation counsellors in Romania put more emphasis on the interpersonal dimension of communication, while their Moldavian counterparts, on the institutional and formal side. In fact, in both countries, the respondents questioned appreciated the importance of the interpersonal communication.
Although significant in terms of incidence, we however cannot consider that the emphasis of the written and formal dimension is characteristic for probation in Moldova, unlike the one in Romania, the Moldavian counsellors expressing themselves regarding the importance of the interpersonal and non-formal dimension of communication in the practice of probation. When asked to state which of the ethical values is considered as being the most important for the professional practice of the probation counsellors, the respondents 4% (RO) and 13% (MD) consider that the most important value is respect and encouraging the autonomy of the beneficiaries (the capacity to take and assume decisions); 8% (RO) consider that the most important value is the respect for the dignity of the beneficiaries; 25% (RO) and 29% (MD) consider that the most important value is the responsibility and accountability of the beneficiaries; 21% (RO) and 38% (MD) considers that the most important value is the efficient communication between the counsellor and the beneficiary; 20% (RO) and 4% (MD) consider that the most important value is the trust in the relationship between the counsellor and the beneficiary, and 4% (RO) haven’t expressed their opinion at all.
The most important value for the counsellors in Romania is
To the question which aims to evaluate the adherence of the respondents to the retributive model of the sanction,
These answers confirm our hypothesis according to which the model of probation developed in the two countries is one centred on the retributive dimension of punishment, the level of adherence to the retributive model of justice being higher in Moldova. However, the respondents partially understand the need for founding probation on a model of alternative justice, either restorative, utilitarian or centred on human rights. The sanctioning function of the punishment remains significant, the professionals agreeing to it as a perspective on practice.
To the question
The exemplary function of the punishment is also important for the respondent, the ideology of the exemplarity of the punishment being also accepted as an axiological foundation of the practice of probation. The function of re-education, social reintegration, is also a component of the ideology that theoretically fundaments the practice of probation, being part of the values centred on practice that the counsellors in the two countries adhere to. 43% (RO) and 64% (MD) of the respondents totally or partially agree with the fact that the re-education of the offender is a very important function, if not even the most important of the punishment.
31% (RO) and 18% (MD) consider that this function is not among the most important functions of the punishment, and 26 % (RO) and 55% (MD) chose a neutral opinion, translated by us as no agreement, nor disagreement. We find that the adherence to the educational function and that of re-socialization of probation is more significant to the probation counsellors in Moldova. Analysing the answers to the questions referring to the functions of the punishment, we support the hypothesis according to which the Romanian/Moldavian model of probation is one based on a theoretical breeding, being a convergence between the retributive and the restorative model, with an almost equal accent on the function of social reintegration and the retributive one to the professionals in Romania, with a slight accent on the reintegrating one to those in Moldova.
To the request of selecting the statement which best defines the professional success of the probation counsellor, the respondents 9% (RO) and 7% (MD) state that this is best defined by the supervised person who finished executing the measures and obligations imposed without an incident; 11% (RO) and 12% (MD) states that the professional success is best defined by the supervised person who hasn’t relapsed; 72% (RO) and 62% (MD) state that professional success is best defined by the supervised person who has reintegrated into the community; 4% (RO) and 9% (MD) state that professional success is best defined by respecting all legal provisions in working with the beneficiary.
Considering the purpose of the micro-research, although the small number of respondents cannot lead to a statistical validation, we may say that the results obtained within this micro-research can be significant for supporting the verisimilitude of the model. The hypotheses of the micro-research are confirmed at the level of the sample studied.
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30 July 2017
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Sandu, A. (2017). Probation Counselors Perspectives On Their Professional Practice. In A. Sandu, T. Ciulei, & A. Frunza (Eds.), Multidimensional Education and Professional Development: Ethical Values, vol 27. European Proceedings of Social and Behavioural Sciences (pp. 690-699). Future Academy. https://doi.org/10.15405/epsbs.2017.07.03.82