Examining the Personal and Perceived Organizational Characteristics Associated With Juvenile Probation Staff Job Satisfaction

Published date01 March 2021
Date01 March 2021
Subject MatterArticles
/tmp/tmp-17eQSAACMf4qFl/input 977581CJBXXX10.1177/0093854820977581Criminal Justice and BehaviorKrupa / short titlE
Examining thE PErsonal and PErcEivEd
organizational charactEristics
associatEd With JuvEnilE Probation
staff Job satisfaction

Michigan State University
Satisfied employees are essential to an organization, as they are often the primary means for meeting organizational needs.
Job satisfaction is particularly important among criminal justice agencies, specifically probation agencies that largely rely on
personnel for the supervision and rehabilitation of individuals. Yet, the correlates of job satisfaction among juvenile probation
staff are largely unknown. Following organizational climate theory, the current study utilizes baseline data from the Juvenile
Justice–Translational Research on Adolescents in the Legal System (JJ-TRIALS) initiative, a project conducted in seven
states with 36 participating juvenile probation agencies. Factor analysis and structural equation modeling were utilized to
examine the latent structure of organizational characteristics and potential mediating effects. Regression analyses were uti-
lized to examine the direct relationship between job satisfaction and personal and organizational factors. Results highlight
the importance of workplace factors and suggest efforts toward improving job satisfaction should focus on the improvement
of organizational characteristics.
Keywords: job satisfaction; juvenile probation; organizational climate theory; factor analysis
Since 2005, the majority of Americans have been unsatisfied with their jobs (Morris,
2017). Consequences of dissatisfaction include negative organizational outcomes such as
higher turnover rates and feelings of burnout, anxiety, and depression. Accordingly, job
satisfaction (JS) has been of interest to researchers and practitioners alike. Within the
author’s notE: The author gratefully acknowledges the collaborative contributions of National Institute
on Drug Abuse (NIDA) and support from the following grant awards: Chestnut Health Systems (U01DA03622),
Columbia University (U01DA036226), Emory University (U01DA036233), Mississippi State University
(U01DA036176), Temple University (U01DA036225), Texas Christian University (U01DA036224), and
University of Kentucky (U01DA036158). NIDA Science Officer on this project is Tisha Wiley. The Clinical
Trials Registration number is NCT02672150. The contents of this publication are solely the responsibility of
the author and do not necessarily represent the official views of the NIDA, National Institutes of Health (NIH),
or the participating universities or juvenile justice systems. This study was funded under the Juvenile Justice–
Translational Research on Interventions for Adolescents in the Legal System (JJ-TRIALS) cooperative agree-
ment, funded at the NIDA by the NIH. Correspondence concerning this article should be addressed to Julie M.
Krupa, School of Criminal Justice, Michigan State University, 655 Auditorium Road, Room 428, East Lansing,
MI 48824; e-mail: krupajul@msu.edu.

CRIMINAL JUSTICE AND BEHAVIOR, 2021, Vol. 48, No. 3, March 2021, 293 –314.
DOI: 10.1177/0093854820977581
Article reuse guidelines: sagepub.com/journals-permissions
© 2020 International Association for Correctional and Forensic Psychology

criminal justice field, state and federal prisons have invested a great deal of time and money
exploring the correlates of JS among correctional officers. This effort is fueled by the costly
outcomes associated with job dissatisfaction, including turnover, turnover intention, and the
mental and physical health of employees. This is of interest to probation agencies as well,
which rely on personnel, rather than machinery or computers, to accomplish day-to-day
tasks and larger organizational objectives. Turnover is a serious issue for probation agencies
that report anywhere from 15% to 24% of staff leaving their job each year (Simmons et al.,
1997; Texas Juvenile Probation Commission [TJPC], 2003). JS is also essential to organiza-
tions because staff morale is good for business. Workers who are more satisfied are less
likely to leave or have thoughts of leaving their job, feel less burnt out and stressed, and are
more likely to perform well at work. This is imperative for juvenile probation staff who are
tasked with the supervision and rehabilitation of at-risk youth.
In 2015, nearly half of all delinquency cases received a sanction of probation, resulting
in approximately 294,800 youths on probation (Hockenberry & Puzzanchera, 2018). This is
not surprising as juvenile probation is the oldest and most commonly used disposition,
being utilized at both the “front-end” of the juvenile justice system for low-risk youth and
the “back-end” as an alternative to incarceration for more serious charges (Torbet, 1996). In
some instances, communities may even use probation on a voluntary status to monitor at-
risk youth, in lieu of formal adjudication. It has even been termed the “workhorse of the
juvenile justice system” with probation staff often referred to as the “heart” of the juvenile
justice system (Torbet, 1996).
Generally speaking, juvenile probation staff are responsible for conducting intake
screenings, investigating predisposition or presentence youth, and supervising youth.
Compared with adult probation staff, juvenile probation staff have unique job demands,
such as the coordination of multiple entities like parents/guardians, teachers, treatment
agencies, and medical providers (Steiner et al., 2004). In some instances, these functions
are performed while managing large caseloads (Torbet, 1996). In addition, juvenile pro-
bation officers (JPOs) are responsible for addressing the behavioral health needs of their
clients. This is a relatively demanding task as an estimated 60% to 70% of justice–
involved youth experience mental health and/or substance use–related problems (Fazel
et al., 2008).
Similar to most correctional research, however, the majority of studies on JS have focused
on institutional corrections staff (e.g., Cheeseman et al., 2011; E. G. Lambert et al., 2005)
and, to a lesser degree, adult probation staff (Getahun et al., 2008; Jiang et al., 2016;
Leonardi & Frew, 1991; Simmons et al., 1997). Although juvenile probation has received
more attention in recent years, few, if any, studies have specifically focused on JS among
juvenile probation staff. Given the differences in responsibilities, environment, and man-
agement between adult and juvenile probation agencies, this is problematic. Although adult
and juvenile probation agencies have similar objectives in regard to the supervision of jus-
tice-involved individuals, it is clear that the experiences of juvenile probation staff and the
climate in which juvenile probation staff operate are very different from their adult
To this end, the current study builds on prior research by assessing the correlates of JS
among a sample of juvenile probation staff who participated in a Juvenile Justice–
Translational Research on Adolescents in the Legal System (JJ-TRIALS) project. Using
data from 2015–2016, the relationship between JS and individual and organizational factors

Krupa / Juvenile Probation Staff Job Satisfaction 295
is examined. The potential indirect relationships between organizational factors and JS are
also assessed.
thEorEtical framEWorK
organizational climatE thEory (oct)
OCT is a long-standing theory utilized within the JS literature (Payne et al., 1976). OCT
postulates that organizational and social variables that compromise one’s working environ-
ment impact workers’ attitudes toward their jobs. Organizational climate is most commonly
defined and measured by workers’ perceptions of their environment, including characteris-
tics of the organization and relationships with other people. JS is often identified as an impor-
tant variable in organizational climate research and an important topic within correctional
literature. More specifically, organizational climate is “the overall meaning derived from the
aggregation of individual perceptions of a work environment (i.e., the typical or average way
people in an organization ascribe meaning to that organization)” (James et al., 2008, p. 15).
Therefore, organizational climate is a concept derived from individual employees. Juvenile
probation staff may obtain a sense of climate as soon as entering the organization through
things such as physical appearance, the attitudes of other officers, and the treatment of clients
and new employees. Climate is a description of what workers see and experience happening
to them when, in an organizational situation, this may include an employee’s perception
about policies, practices, procedures, and/or rewards (Rentsch, 1990).
OCT has received a wealth of support both within the field of criminal justice and across
other occupational domains. To date, correctional research has appraised the work environ-
ment through a variety of characteristics ranging from negative aspects such as job stress
(Blau et al., 1986; E. G. Lambert, 2004) and role conflict (E. G. Lambert & Paoline, 2008)
to positive facets like peer support (Cheeseman et al., 2011), communication (Getahun
et al., 2008), organizational support (Armstrong & Griffin, 2004), and many others.
Multidimensional measures have been employed to examine features of supervisory...

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