New Training Available for Juvenile Justice Systems that Want to Remake Probation

A new program has been announced that is designed to help juvenile justice leaders rethink what their probation services look like and how it interacts with young people.

The Transforming Juvenile Probation certificate program will be November 4-8 in Washington, D.C. It is funded by the Annie E. Casey Foundation and will be conducted by Georgetown University’s Center for Juvenile Justice Reform (CJJR) and the Council of State Governments (CSG) Justice Center.

“This is an opportunity for jurisdictions to fully shift the role of probation officers away from surveillance and sanctions and toward a focus on promoting personal growth, positive behavior change and long-term success for youth,” said Steve Bishop, a senior associate with Casey’s Juvenile Justice Strategy Group.

The foundation’s flagship juvenile program, the Juvenile Detention Alternatives Initiative (JDAI), was created in 1992 and focuses on partnering with state and county systems to reduce their reliance on pretrial detention. More recently, the Juvenile Justice Strategy Group has included efforts to close large juvenile incarceration facilities, meant for youth who are adjudicated.

Bishop has run point for years on Casey’s growing interest in probation reform. At the national JDAI conference in 2017, he laid out the case for why the conventional idea of probation doesn’t work with youth.

“The idea of a list of conditions has no effect,” Bishop said. “Being risk-averse is an adult construct. Those work for adults, it does not work for adolescents. That’s not how they’re wired.”

Last year, Casey issued “Transforming Juvenile Probation: A Vision for Getting It Right,” a treatise on remaking probation “into a purposeful intervention targeted to youth who pose significant risk for serious re-offending.” It touts the work done on new probation approaches in Lucas County, Ohio, and Pierce County, Washington, which will both likely be prominently featured in the certificate program.

Seven applicant teams will be selected for this program. The proposed teams must include a probation leader, judge and prosecutor, and may include community-based service providers, police, public defenders and other government officials.

Teams will receive both on-site and virtual technical assistance through the program, and will lay out a concrete action plan for transformative local system changes in a capstone project. The deadline to apply is Friday, July 26. Click here to access the application.

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John Kelly
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John Kelly is editor-in-chief of The Chronicle of Social Change.