New Tool Helps Juvenile Justice Leaders Assess Readiness for Probation Transformation

Posted March 17, 2021, By the Annie E. Casey Foundation

A juvenile justice professional does an assessment exercise

The Annie E. Casey Foun­da­tion has devel­oped a free tool to help juve­nile pro­ba­tion lead­ers assess whether or not their agency is ready to evolve in ways that pro­mote youth devel­op­ment and opportunity.

The tool — a sim­ple grid of 25 state­ments — is based on the Foundation’s vision for trans­form­ing juve­nile pro­ba­tion.

Down­load the tool

We are often asked how to begin the jour­ney toward pro­ba­tion trans­for­ma­tion,” says Steve Bish­op, a senior asso­ciate at the Foun­da­tion. This tool is a start­ing point with delib­er­ate ques­tions that con­vey the depth and breadth of trans­for­ma­tion. It also prompts frank dis­cus­sions that should pre­cede any for­mal efforts.”

With this tool and oth­er resources, the Foun­da­tion hopes to encour­age local learn­ing, action, research and inno­va­tion to improve juve­nile pro­ba­tion prac­tice and the larg­er juve­nile jus­tice system.

What does trans­form­ing juve­nile pro­ba­tion mean?

The Foundation’s vision for trans­form­ing juve­nile pro­ba­tion dif­fers from oth­er efforts to boost juve­nile probation’s effec­tive­ness. It chal­lenges the juve­nile pro­ba­tion field to devel­op a much clear­er con­sen­sus about whom pro­ba­tion is meant to serve, what it’s meant to accom­plish and how it could advance racial equity.

A trans­formed sys­tem pro­motes a young person’s strengths, growth and long-term suc­cess. It uti­lizes age-appro­pri­ate and trau­ma-informed approach­es and puts the essen­tial val­ues of racial and eth­nic equi­ty into prac­tice. Trans­for­ma­tion also shifts a pro­ba­tion officer’s role — mov­ing it from sur­veil­lance to coach­ing, col­lab­o­rat­ing and shar­ing respon­si­bil­i­ties with fam­i­lies, com­mu­ni­ty part­ners and young people.

Self-assess­ment tool specifics

The tool’s 25 state­ments fall into one of four categories:

  1. mis­sion and values;
  2. use of diver­sion;
  3. pro­ba­tion prac­tices; and
  4. mea­sur­ing success.

A respond­ing agency works as a team — with rep­re­sen­ta­tives from line staff, mid­dle man­age­ment and lead­er­ship — to review and then rate each state­ment on a five-point scale.

Sam­ple state­ments include:

  • Our juve­nile court and pro­ba­tion agency refrain from impos­ing stan­dard­ized or one size fits all” pro­ba­tion orders or con­di­tions in all or most juve­nile pro­ba­tion cases.
  • Our juris­dic­tion sets goals for divert­ing youth accused of mis­de­meanors and first-time non­vi­o­lent felonies.
  • Our pro­ba­tion depart­ment tracks its progress in reduc­ing racial and eth­nic dis­par­i­ties in the use of diver­sion, at deci­sion points in the court process and more.

Com­plet­ing the tool requires teams to dis­cuss and reflect on their agency’s readi­ness for pro­ba­tion trans­for­ma­tion. This process also helps the team iden­ti­fy action steps that their agency can take to bet­ter pre­pare for change.

Watch a three-minute video on how to trans­form juve­nile probation

Read about Casey’s Bold Vision for Get­ting Juve­nile Pro­ba­tion Right

Check out a Desk­top Guide to Good Juve­nile Pro­ba­tion Practice

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