APA Reinforces Casey’s Vision for Juvenile Probation Transformation

Posted October 8, 2019
By the Annie E. Casey Foundation
Young people playing hackysack

Com­mu­ni­ties can adopt more effec­tive juve­nile pro­ba­tion prac­tices by fol­low­ing six steps that are root­ed in research on ado­les­cent devel­op­ment, accord­ing to a 2019 arti­cle in the Amer­i­can Psy­cho­log­i­cal Association’s (APA) Trans­la­tion­al Issues in Psy­cho­log­i­cal Sci­ence journal.

Apply­ing the Nation­al Coun­cil of Juve­nile and Fam­i­ly Court Judges’ Res­o­lu­tion to Juve­nile Pro­ba­tion Reform rein­forces the Annie E. Casey Foundation’s call for trans­form­ing juve­nile pro­ba­tion and high­lights two juris­dic­tions that have made large-scale changes to juve­nile pro­ba­tion in line with Casey’s vision. Edi­tor’s note: The arti­cle is behind a pay­wall.

The jour­nal arti­cle finds flaws with the tra­di­tion­al sur­veil­lance-based pro­ba­tion sys­tem, which relies on sanc­tions to change youth behav­ior. It says an effec­tive pro­ba­tion prac­tice moti­vates young peo­ple and encour­age suc­cess by focus­ing on incen­tives, social con­nec­tions such as vol­un­teer­ing to help oth­ers and real­is­tic short-term goals.

Casey Senior Asso­ciate Steve Bish­op, who con­tributed to the arti­cle, applauds the APA’s focus on youth devel­op­ment. The Casey Foundation’s vision for pro­ba­tion trans­for­ma­tion is root­ed in the sci­ence of ado­les­cent devel­op­ment, in what we know are the most effec­tive means of pro­mot­ing per­son­al growth and pos­i­tive behav­ior change in youth,” Bish­op says. It’s excit­ing to see the APA, the Nation­al Coun­cil of Juve­nile and Fam­i­ly Court Judges and oth­er orga­ni­za­tions embrac­ing fun­da­men­tal changes in cur­rent prac­tice as the way to get­ting pro­ba­tion right.”

Rec­om­men­da­tions for juve­nile probation

The arti­cle cen­ters on the 2017 Nation­al Coun­cil of Juve­nile and Fam­i­ly Court Judges’ res­o­lu­tion advo­cat­ing for juve­nile pro­ba­tion reform. The res­o­lu­tion called on juris­dic­tions to mod­ern­ize juve­nile pro­ba­tion in line with ado­les­cent devel­op­ment research. Rec­om­mend­ed strate­gies for doing so included:

  • using incen­tives rather than sanc­tions to mod­i­fy youth behavior;
  • elim­i­nat­ing stan­dard con­di­tions of pro­ba­tion and instead devel­op­ing indi­vid­u­al­ized case plans; and
  • elim­i­nat­ing the use of con­fine­ment as a sanc­tion for tech­ni­cal pro­ba­tion violations.

The article’s authors sug­gest six steps juris­dic­tions can fol­low to enact pro­ba­tion prac­tice reform in line with the resolution’s recommendations:

  • Step 1: Iden­ti­fy and engage stakeholders.
  • Step 2: Agree on reform effort goals.
  • Step 3: Con­crete­ly define rel­e­vant concepts.
  • Step 4: Gath­er base­line data.
  • Step 5: Devel­op poli­cies and pro­ce­dures to sup­port and sus­tain reforms.
  • Step 6: Eval­u­ate effectiveness.

The arti­cle gives exam­ples from two JDAI® sites — Pierce Coun­ty, Wash­ing­ton (home to Taco­ma) and Philadel­phia —using these steps to build more effec­tive pro­ba­tion sys­tems. It describes oppor­tu­ni­ty-based pro­ba­tion in Pierce Coun­ty, which incor­po­rates increased fam­i­ly involve­ment, improved sup­port for youth at high risk of out-of-home place­ment and incen­tives and oppor­tu­ni­ties for pos­i­tive behav­ior. The Philadel­phia exam­ple involves grad­u­at­ed respons­es for youth on probation.

Resources on juve­nile probation

[Video] The Casey Foundation’s vision for trans­form­ing juve­nile probation

Progress accel­er­ates for elim­i­nat­ing con­fine­ment as a response to juve­nile pro­ba­tion violations

Rewrit­ing the play­book for reduc­ing juve­nile delinquency

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