In the context of ‘ordinary’ probation practice, quality is a contested concept, as well as an under-researched one. In this article we present the findings of a study which sought to capture, via interviews inspired by Appreciative Inquiry, the views of probation staff about the meaning(s) of ‘quality’ in probation practice. The interviews revealed a ‘frontline’ perspective on quality which has not previously been exposed or articulated as such. Drawing upon theoretical concepts developed by Bourdieu, it is argued that despite significant recent changes in the penal and probation fields in England and Wales, and some signs of adaptation in normative conceptions of probation work, there exists a culture or ‘probation habitus’ among frontline staff that is relatively cohesive and resilient
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