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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May 7, 2018

In This Report, You’ll Learn

  1. 1

    How recent research on adolescent brain development and behavior demands a fundamental rethinking of juvenile probation practice to improve system performance and the lives of young people.

  2. 2

    Why traditional, surveillance-oriented probation is ineffective for reversing delinquent behavior, with especially poor results for youth at low risk of rearrest.

  3. 3

    How expanding the use of diversion and developing a stronger continuum of diversion programming could significantly improve system outcomes.

  4. 4

    How probation can be made into an effective tool for helping youth who pose significant risks for serious offending to achieve personal growth, positive behavior change and long-term success for youth.

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

Statements & Quotations