Transforming Juvenile Probation: A Vision for Getting It Right

The Annie E. Casey FoundationThis report from the Annie E. Casey Foundation presents a 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 committing serious crimes.

Nearly a half-million young people are given some form of probation annually; it serves as a critical gatekeeper to determining whether young people are placed in residential institutions. This report provides 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; and second, for the much smaller population of youth who will remain on probation officer’s caseloads, the report advocates for transforming probation into a more effective intervention. The report 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—including those for improving racial and ethnic equity—and holding probation and its partner agencies in the juvenile justice system accountable for achieving them.