Three-Minute Video Explains How to Transform Juvenile Probation

Posted March 30, 2019
By the Annie E. Casey Foundation
A video explainer from the Casey Foundation shows how to get juvenile probation reform right

A short video pro­duced by the Casey Foun­da­tion sug­gests how juve­nile pro­ba­tion could get bet­ter out­comes for hun­dreds of thou­sands of young peo­ple. The video is a com­pan­ion to the report Trans­form­ing Juve­nile Pro­ba­tion: A Vision for Get­ting It Right. Both describe how and why sys­tems must reimag­ine pro­ba­tion — the most com­mon dis­po­si­tion imposed on young peo­ple in our nation’s juve­nile jus­tice sys­tems — if they are to ful­fill their poten­tial for improv­ing young lives and pro­mot­ing pub­lic safety.

The video is a quick intro­duc­tion to pro­ba­tion, which exerts a poten­tial­ly piv­otal influ­ence on the lives of near­ly 400,000 court-involved youth per year and plays a large role in per­pet­u­at­ing the vast and con­tin­u­ing over­rep­re­sen­ta­tion of African-Amer­i­can, Lati­no and oth­er youth of col­or in the youth jus­tice sys­tem. In 2016, the last year for which data are avail­able, 55% of youth put on pro­ba­tion case­loads were youth of col­or — far high­er than their share of the total youth pop­u­la­tion (40%). Yet both nation­al­ly and local­ly, juve­nile pro­ba­tion receives scant attention.

The Foun­da­tion is putting pro­ba­tion front and cen­ter now because knowl­edge about ado­les­cent behav­ior and brain devel­op­ment and evi­dence about inter­ven­tion strate­gies that reduce delin­quen­cy can equip the field to get pro­ba­tion right. This advanc­ing knowl­edge makes clear that most youth who engage in delin­quent con­duct, even in seri­ous offend­ing, are amenable to pos­i­tive change.

We know what works with young peo­ple to set them up for suc­cess as adults,” says Stephen Bish­op, a senior asso­ciate with the Foundation’s Juve­nile Jus­tice Strat­e­gy Group and the nar­ra­tor of the video. There are effec­tive ways to pro­mote per­son­al growth and pos­i­tive behav­ior change in young peo­ple while still hold­ing them accountable.”

Get­ting Pro­ba­tion Reform Right

The video illus­trates Casey’s call to action to the lead­ers and line staff of juve­nile pro­ba­tion agen­cies — as well as judges, pros­e­cu­tors, juve­nile defend­ers, com­mu­ni­ty orga­ni­za­tions and oth­er sys­tem partners:

  • Divert young peo­ple with non­vi­o­lent, low-lev­el charges from juve­nile court toward com­mu­ni­ty orga­ni­za­tions, human ser­vice agen­cies and their own fam­i­lies. Pro­ba­tion offi­cers would focus their time on youth who pose a sig­nif­i­cant risk for seri­ous offending.
  • Empha­size incen­tives, not sanc­tions. For gen­er­a­tions, juve­nile pro­ba­tion has been built around pun­ish­ment. Research makes clear this approach is back­wards: Incen­tives as small as movie tick­ets moti­vate young peo­ple to do pos­i­tive things like suc­ceed in school and remain drug free.
  • Com­mit to racial and eth­nic equi­ty. While only 40% of the country’s youth pop­u­la­tion are youth of col­or, they rep­re­sent 68% of youth held in res­i­den­tial cus­tody for tech­ni­cal vio­la­tions of pro­ba­tion orders. Youth of col­or are over­rep­re­sent­ed on pro­ba­tion case­loads and divert­ed less fre­quent­ly than their white peers, too.
  • Build young people’s skills, deci­sion mak­ing and pos­i­tive con­nec­tions to pro­mote their per­son­al growth, pos­i­tive behav­ior change and long-term success.

Relat­ed Juve­nile Pro­ba­tion Resources

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