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 — including those for improving racial and ethnic equity — and holding probation and its partner agencies in the juvenile justice system accountable for achieving them.