Transforming Juvenile Probation

A Vision for Getting it Right

By the Annie E. Casey Foundation

May 7, 2018

Summary

The Annie E. Casey Foundation presents its vision for transforming juvenile probation into a focused intervention that promotes personal growth, positive behavior change and long-term success for youth who pose significant risks for serious offending. Nearly a half-million young people are given some form of probation annually and it serves as a critical gatekeeper to determine whether young people are placed in residential institutions. Probation plays a significant role in perpetuating the vast overrepresentation of African-American, Latino and other youth of color in our nation’s justice systems.

This report delivers the evidence and rationale for two interdependent approaches. First, it calls for reducing the size of the probation population dramatically by diverting far more youth from the juvenile justice system to community resources. Second, it seeks to transforming probation into a more effective intervention for the much smaller population of youth who will remain on probation officer’s caseloads. It describes necessary elements of reform, such as building relationships; embracing families and community organizations; motivating youth through incentives and opportunities; and setting clear and meaningful outcome goals for probation itself.

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Table of Contents

Key Takeaway

Transforming juvenile probation could deliver more lasting results than any other juvenile justice reforms

Probation is the most common disposition in juvenile justice with nearly a half-million young people given some form of probation annually. Taking action to get probation right presents an enormous opportunity for improving the entire juvenile justice system. The Casey Foundation has developed a vision for transforming juvenile probation based on new research on adolescent behavior and brain development and on intervention strategies that consistently reduce delinquency. 

Findings & Stats

Probation Statistics

In 2014, more than half of the nearly 300,000 youths found delinquent in juvenile courts (63%) were sentenced to probation. 

Lack of Vision

The fundamental flaw with probation is that it is not rooted in a theory of change, so there is an absence of a commonly articulated vision.

Statements & Quotations