New Tool Helps Juvenile Justice Leaders Assess Readiness for Probation Transformation
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.
“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:
- mission and values;
- use of diversion;
- probation practices; and
- 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.