“Purpose, Necessity, and Impact”: Reflections from the Transforming Juvenile Probation Certificate Program

Team members participating in the Transforming Juvenile Probation Certificate Program.

Team members participating in the Transforming Juvenile Probation Certificate Program.

By CSG Justice Center Staff

Over the past two decades, juvenile justice systems in the United States have seen significant advancements. Decreases in juvenile justice arrests and incarceration rates, as well as an increasing number of agencies implementing evidence-based strategies, have indicated noted progress. Despite these gains, few jurisdictions have fundamentally questioned the purpose and goals of probation or considered reorienting the role of probation officers away from surveillance and sanctions and toward promoting positive youth behavior change. This narrative changed last month when seven jurisdictions from across the country participated in the Transforming Juvenile Probation Certificate Program, a weeklong intensive training. The training was hosted in partnership with Georgetown’s Center for Juvenile Justice Reform (CJJR) and The Council of State Governments (CSG) Justice Center and was supported by the Annie E. Casey Foundation (AECF).

The program brought together cross-disciplinary teams from Caddo Parish, Louisiana; Charlottesville, Virginia; Marion County, Indiana; Multnomah County, Oregon; the state of New Hampshire; San Diego County, California; and Stark County, Ohio. The training encouraged teams to fundamentally rethink the policies, procedures, practices, and partnerships that make up their juvenile probation systems. The teams received information from nationally renowned juvenile justice researchers and practitioners and covered a variety of topics, including probation conditions, diversion practices, fairness and equity, and the role of probation officers.

Throughout the week, teams spent time together developing strategic plans detailing the specific changes they plan to enact as part of the program’s capstone project. At the end of the training, participants left with a wealth of knowledge that will be shared with their internal and external partners to better improve public safety and youth outcomes; employ resources more efficiently; and reduce the disparate treatment of youth of color.

Some of the certificate program’s participants had this to say about their experience of the week-long training.

“This week was amazing! I have learned that things I just took for granted, like conditions of probation, should be critically examined for their purpose, necessity, and impact.”

-The Honorable Judge Marilyn Moores of Marion County Superior Court

“Our team is eager to get home and implement many of these innovative tools and initiatives in our community.”

-Kelli Todd, Executive Director of Volunteers of Youth Justice in Caddo Parrish, Louisiana

“This week I learned of the importance of including the family and youth in case planning and in treatment plans, in order to get better results for the youth . . .  The main item that I would like to see implemented in our county is the revision of our court order or conditions of probation, to be more manageable and easier to read for our youth and families. The conditions should be attainable and lead to success.”

-Adolfo Gonzales, Chief Probation Officer in San Diego, California

“This week has been an incredible learning experience. It has provided me with the foundational knowledge and enthusiasm to take Virginia’s juvenile justice reform work to the next level. The presenters and program partners showed expertise in the topics and clearly invested in our individual success as change leaders, as well as success as local teams.”

-Jenna Easton, Virginia JDAI Coordinator

For the next year, jurisdictions will also receive distance and on-site technical assistance to help implement their plans and projects in their communities.