Compared to today's probation system the volunteer work done by pioneer John Augustus (whose cases were often drinkers, relentlessly pursued by police at the height of the temperance movement) seems remarkably straightforward. May shows probation work both at its ideal best (in crisis intervention and highly individualized treatment of offenders) add as it often exists in practice, hampered by overworked, underprepared officers and conflicting local statutes. Unfortunately, May gets bogged down in refuting relatively superficial criticisms of the system and never considers such basic questions as the legal and social implications of allowing such factors as ""a rebellious attitude"" to determine whether an offender goes to jail or serves probation or whether, on a statistical basis, the selective group of offenders assigned to probation might do just as well with no supervision at all. May is at his best in the many case studies which demonstrate both the kind of cases typically handled by probation workers (though a disproportionate number here concern juveniles) and the criteria (often highly judgmental) by which they are handled. But anyone who is even a little worried about the objectivity of social work when wedded to law enforcement might find some of his assumptions disturbing.