JDAI’s Expanded Focus Sees Results in Transforming Juvenile Probation

Posted February 10, 2020, By the Annie E. Casey Foundation

Young person volunteering in the community

A jour­nal arti­cle recent­ly pub­lished in Youth Vio­lence and Juve­nile Jus­tice report­ed promis­ing changes in orga­ni­za­tion­al cul­ture among pro­ba­tion staff in Juve­nile Deten­tion Alter­na­tives Ini­tia­tive® sites par­tic­i­pat­ing in an effort to reduce the place­ment of young peo­ple in res­i­den­tial insti­tu­tions. The deep-end ini­tia­tive focus­es specif­i­cal­ly on reduc­ing place­ment of youth of col­or — who are dis­pro­por­tion­ate­ly rep­re­sent­ed in youth pris­ons and oth­er facil­i­ties — and on align­ing pro­ba­tion prac­tices with research on youth development.

The results are part of a soon-to-be-pub­lished eval­u­a­tion of the deep-end ini­tia­tive — an expan­sion of JDAI®, which was launched by the Annie E. Casey Foun­da­tion in 1992. The arti­cle, based on the study by eval­u­a­tors at the Urban Insti­tute, Math­e­mat­i­ca and the Uni­ver­si­ty of Mary­land, Col­lege Park, explores the evo­lu­tion of orga­ni­za­tion­al cul­ture after two years’ par­tic­i­pa­tion in the initiative.

Select­ed JDAI sites have received tech­ni­cal assis­tance and finan­cial sup­port to improve prac­tices in the deep end of the juve­nile jus­tice sys­tem, includ­ing juve­nile pro­ba­tion, the most com­mon dis­po­si­tion in juve­nile jus­tice. Tra­di­tion­al prac­tices include con­fine­ment of too many youth for tech­ni­cal pro­ba­tion vio­la­tions, insuf­fi­cient col­lab­o­ra­tion with fam­i­lies and com­mu­ni­ty part­ners and inad­e­quate atten­tion to racial and eth­nic equi­ty. The study inves­ti­gates the report­ed work on best prac­tices by pro­ba­tion staff, includ­ing indi­vid­u­al­ized case plan­ning; engage­ment of youth, fam­i­lies and com­mu­ni­ties; and a com­mit­ment to racial and eth­nic equi­ty and inclusion.

Based on sur­veys of pro­ba­tion offi­cers and their super­vi­sors, both at JDAI deep-end ini­tia­tive sites and com­par­i­son sites involved only in JDAI, the authors found:

  • JDAI deep-end sites more fre­quent­ly used prac­tices and prin­ci­ples address­ing com­mu­ni­ty engage­ment and racial and eth­nic equi­ty and inclusion.
  • Pro­ba­tion staff in deep-end sites were, on aver­age, less sup­port­ive of out-of-home place­ment than staff in sites not par­tic­i­pat­ing in the deep-end initiative.

Com­mu­ni­ties look­ing to effec­tive­ly sup­port youth on pro­ba­tion and min­i­mize sub­se­quent jus­tice sys­tem con­tact,” the authors con­clud­ed, might con­sid­er adopt­ing strate­gies sim­i­lar to the deep-end reforms to achieve such goals.”

Nate Balis, direc­tor of the Foundation’s Juve­nile Jus­tice Strat­e­gy Group, said the find­ings empha­size the impor­tant rela­tion­ship between prac­tice and cul­ture in get­ting bet­ter results. We believe that when staff are equipped with effec­tive prac­tices that build on the strengths of young peo­ple, they begin to see what’s pos­si­ble: a sys­tem that can safe­ly address the needs of young peo­ple in their communities.”

Learn more about Casey’s vision for trans­form­ing juve­nile probation

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