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Social Work in the Criminal Justice System : An Ambiguous Exercise of Caring Power

  • Kerstin Svensson
Publishing year: 2003
Language: English
Pages: 84-100
Publication/Series: Journal of Scandinavian Studies in Criminology and Crime Prevention
Volume: 4
Issue: 1
Document type: Journal article
Publisher: Routledge

Abstract english

In this article the caring power in the Swedish probation service is discussed. By exploring the history of probation, formed since the early 19 th century, the structure that is constructed through human interaction and that defines the role of helper and helped is shown. Within this structure, different interpretations exist and different stories are told. This variation is highlighted through stories of support and control, told by social workers and clients. The purpose is to show that different aspects occur in different relationships, and that different discourses co-exist in a structure of caring power. Caring power is a way of exercising power through kindness. Support and control are different interpretations of the actions taken within the probation service and they are both part of the caring power. When the relationship between the social worker and the client is based on mutual understanding, the caring power can function and stories about the supportive aspects are told. When there is no mutual understanding, the actors tell stories about control. That way the caring power always exists, and depending on the relationship between the actors involved, we regard it in different ways. When the actors unite in their task, only the supportive aspects are shown, but when the actors cannot unite, the power is revealed.


  • Social Work
  • social control
  • relation
  • punishment
  • probation
  • power
  • community sanctions
  • Caring power
  • client
  • social history
  • social work


  • ISSN: 1404-3858
Kerstin Svensson
E-mail: kerstin [dot] svensson [at] soch [dot] lu [dot] se


School of Social Work

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Lund University
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