In this chapter the occurrence of differing forms of explanation for black and white crime, as perceived by probation officers, will be considered. Initially, the main explanations for offending behaviour will be identified from original ethnographic research, collected by the author in a small town, which will be referred to fictitiously as Laketown. This research was carried out in 1987 over a six-month period. Social-enquiry reports on 50 offenders, 25 blacks and 25 white, were gathered from 13 white probation officers. The same officers were also interviewed in an unstructured manner (see Appendix). Explanations of offending behaviour from interviews, social-enquiry reports and probation records will be discussed in order to establish which forms of explanation predominate in each of the data sources. This will lead to the formulation of some general comparisons between explanations of offending behaviour for black and white offenders, as provided by probation officers. At this point it will be possible to identify the major categories of explanation for black and white crime which emerged from the research material. These will be considered separately with reference to the research material, in order to illustrate the qualitative differences which emerge between probation officers’ perceptions of black and white offending.
The second practice section (Chapter 3) will examine a number of possible crucial variables relating to the differential treatment of black offenders. These include the acceptability of probation officers’ recommendations to sentencers, the differing forms of recommendations between black and white defendants in social-enquiry reports, the differences between black and white assessments and proposed action plans, the comparative differences in aspects of day-to-day work and the differential forms of effectivity measurement.