After studying this chapter, you should be able to

• Defi ne community-based corrections • Describe common objectives of community-based correctional programs • Describe different kinds of at-home community-based programs • Describe different types of out-of-home or residential community-based programs • Describe standard probation and how it varies between and within jurisdictions • Describe the basic roles performed by juvenile probation offi cers • evaluate the effectiveness of standard probation • Describe recent trends in juvenile probation • Describe problems that confront community-based correctional programs • evaluate the effectiveness of community-based correctional programs • explain why aftercare is a key component of juvenile corrections

• Introduction • at-home Community-Based programs for Juvenile Offenders • Out-of-home (residential) Community-Based placements for Juvenile Offenders • the effectiveness of Community-Based Corrections for Juvenile Offenders • Linking Institutional and Community-Based Corrections: aftercare programs • Legal Issues • Chapter Summary • Key Concepts • review Questions • additional readings • Notes

Community-Based Correctional Programs for Juvenile offenders 1111


 Chapter OBJeCtIVeS

 Chapter OUtLINe


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When youths are adjudicated, a number of dispositional options may be exercised by juvenile courts, although the options available in many jurisdictions are fairly narrow. Regardless of the number of options available to courts, however, they fall into three categories. One category of options is nonformal processing, which includes dismissal of the case, used in a small percentage of cases; referral to a community diversion pro- gram (note that some states limit the types of crimes that can be referred to diversion programs); and placement on nonformal probation. The two categories of formal pro- cessing options are placement in a community-based correctional program and place- ment in an institutional correctional program. This chapter examines the operation and effectiveness of placement in community-based correctional programs.

The term community-based corrections refers to diverse types of supervision, treat- ment, reintegration, control, and support programs for youths involved in the juvenile justice process. These programs are based on the belief that the most effective way to encourage law-abiding behavior on the part of youths is to help them assume legitimate roles within the community.1 Examples of community-based programs are diversion, pretrial release, probation, foster care, group home placement, and parole. Some of the programs, which are referred to as at-home community-based programs, are designed to provide services to youths in their own homes. Other community-based programs provide services to youths who are removed from their homes, at least for short periods of time; these are referred to as out-of-home community-based programs.

Like other correctional interventions, community-based programs are intended to accomplish a variety of objectives, although the objectives actually pursued by different programs vary to some extent. These objectives include controlling and sanctioning youths, allowing youths to maintain existing ties with the community, helping them restore ties and develop new and positive ones with the community (reintegration), helping the individual avoid the negative consequences of institutional placement, pro- viding a more cost-effective response to those who violate the law, and reducing the likelihood of recidivism.2

At-Home Community-Based Programs for Juvenile Offenders


Probation is the most frequently used correctional response to youths who are adju- dicated in juvenile courts. For example, in 2005, almost 6 out of every 10 delinquency cases (59.8%) adjudicated in juvenile courts were given probation.3 Probation is the conditional release of an adjudicated youth into the community under the supervision of the court. The conditions under which a youth is released constitute the rules of probation. Typical rules of probation require the probationer to obey all laws; follow home rules; be home each day by a certain time; meet with the probation officer when requested; and, if the youth is of school age, attend school each day and obey the rules of the school. However, a court may make other rules of probation if it thinks they are necessary to assist the youth and protect the community. The court, for example, might demand that the youth avoid certain people or places, attend counseling, and make restitution to the victim. The role of the probation officer is to monitor the youth and/ or assist the youth in his or her efforts to adhere to the rules of probation.

nonformal processing Includes various ways of processing cases that do not involve an adjudication and the initiation of a formal juvenile court record for the youth.

formal processing Case processing that results in an adjudication and initiation of a formal juvenile court record.

community-based corrections Noninstitutional correctional programs and interventions.

probation The conditional release of an adjudicated delinquent into the community under the supervision of the court.

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Simply defining probation, however, does not reflect the complexities of probation nor the disparities that exist in the practice of probation. In fact, considerable variabil- ity in probation practice can occur in the same state and even in the same probation department. Some juvenile courts have more than one type of probation program for youths under their supervision. These different programs—sometimes called standard, moderate, and intensive probation—are intended to reflect different levels of contact between probation officers and their clients. Other courts or probation departments do not make a formal distinction between types of probation programs. Whether proba- tion is called standard, moderate, or even intensive probation in some cases, the level of contact between a probation officer and a client can range from regular to infrequent. There are also jurisdictions that, because of large caseloads, are able to provide only “file drawer probation,” which is characterized by a lack of meaningful and regular contact between probation officers and probationers. Moreover, there is considerable variabil- ity in the training, skills, motivation, and workload of individual probation officers. Some probation officers are well trained, highly skilled, motivated, and work with small caseloads. Others have received relatively little training, lack motivation, and have large caseloads, which of course prevents them from having regular contact with each of their clients.4 In order to determine the number of probation officers available for working with (or for) juvenile courts, some states use population formulas. In other states, the determination of the number of available probation officers is made locally and may be based on the level of community resources and various political factors.5

Not only do probation officers differ in terms of their ability and willingness to supervise or work with clients, but communities also vary in the number and quality of services available for use by probation officers and probationers. Some communities have a range of high-quality programs appropriate for probationers, such as alternative education programs, educational support services, job training and placement pro- grams, substance abuse treatment programs, counseling, and structured recreational programs. Unfortunately, many other communities lack such programs or have only a few high-quality programs that are accessible to court-involved youths. The availability of high-quality programs in a community is important to probation officers, because they often serve as service brokers who attempt to link clients with appropriate com- munity services and thereby reduce the likelihood of further law-violating behavior. Juvenile courts and other governmental units responsible for funding or administering probation departments also vary in their support of probation services. Some probation departments receive considerably more resource support than others. Desired resources


The Level of Probation Supervision Varies Across Jurisdictions and Clients Many probation officers develop their own levels of probation supervision for their caseload or their own system for prioritizing their cases, based on their assessment of need. For example, at any one time, some cases on a probation officer’s caseload will be in crisis (e.g., because of a family fight, the suspension of a youth from school, or because the youth lost his or her job) and will require considerable expenditure of time and energy on the part of the officer. In contrast, other cases will be relatively trouble free and close to discharge from probation. as a result, the probation officer will have considerably more contact with some probationers than with others.

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and supports include probation and support staff, staff training, pay and benefits, and effective supervision and administration of the department.

Although the actual practice of probation varies, probation officers usually perform six important functions in the juvenile justice process: (1) they do intake screening; (2) they conduct presentence investigations; (3) they supervise offenders and monitor the extent to which youths adhere to their probation orders; (4) they provide assistance to youths placed on probation; (5) they provide ongoing assessments of clients’ needs; and (6) they complete a variety of job-related administrative tasks. In some jurisdictions, all of these functions are the responsibility of the same individual, whereas in other jurisdictions, probation officers specialize in one or more.

As noted in Chapter 8, intake screening involves making decisions about the most appropriate ways of processing cases referred to the juvenile court. It is at the intake stage that decisions to dismiss, petition, or handle a case in some nonformal way are made. Moreover, those who perform intake screening may employ considerable discretion in making intake decisions. In addition to this, the presentence investigation plays a critical role in juvenile court dispositions because hearing officers rely on these investigations to decide upon the most appropriate way of handling formal cases.

The supervision and assistance roles of probation officers involve monitoring pro- bationers to ensure that they are complying with the rules of probation and providing various types of help to them. The supervision role requires checking to ensure that probationers are at school, work, home, or other places at designated times or monitoring youths assigned to electronic or officer-monitored house arrest programs. It may also require collecting urine samples from youths to enable screening for substance use. The assistance role may encompass service brokerage and the provision of direct services to clients. When acting as a service broker, the probation officer attempts to link youths and possibly families with community agencies. The officer might also provide direct

MYth vs RealItY Probation Can Mean Regular Supervision and Provision of Services Myth—Most juvenile probation officers have large caseloads that prevent them from effectively monitoring their clients, thus endangering public safety. Reality—although some juvenile probation officers have caseloads of more than 200 clients, the average juvenile probation caseload is about 41 active cases (11 more than the optimal caseload of 30 suggested by probation officers themselves).6 Moreover, most youths placed on probation are nonviolent offenders. Only 26% of the adjudicated cases that were placed on probation in 2005 involved person offenses.7


Probation Officers Perform a Number of Functions By the mid-1990s, there were an estimated 18,000 juvenile probation officers in the United States. ap- proximately 85% of these individuals were line staff involved in providing basic intake, investigation, and supervision services; the remaining 15% were involved in the administration of probation offices or the supervision of probation staff.8

presentence investigation An investigation that is typically completed by a probation officer prior to the disposition; it is intended to assist the hearing officer in deciding the best response to an adjudicated youth.

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services, such as basic counseling, job search assistance, basic family counseling, and crisis intervention services, as well as act as an advocate for youths in dealings with parents or other relatives, teachers, school administrators, employers, and social service person- nel. In cases where probation officers have an opportunity to have regular contacts with clients, they are in a position to better understand problems that may have contributed to the youths’ involvement with the court. They can also conduct investigations into the youths’ and families’ needs. Such investigations may uncover problems that were passed over or have arisen since the presentence investigation. By becoming aware of current problems, the probation officer will be in a better position to recommend or develop, possibly with the court’s assistance, strategies for helping the youths successfully complete probation and avoid subsequent delinquent activity.

Because probation officers work for and with governmental agencies with significant legal responsibilities, probation officers also engage in a variety of job-related adminis- trative tasks, such as filing orders and paperwork related to the processing of cases and preparing reports of casework activity. Furthermore, probation officers may be employed in specialized programs operated by or on behalf of courts. For example, juvenile courts or other government agencies may have a variety of programs, such as diversion and foster care programs, and also operate their own shelter-care units, group homes, and detention centers. Probation officers may be used to staff these programs or may be responsible for providing basic casework services to youths in these programs.

In performing their various duties, probation officers may experience conflict be- tween their supervision and assistance roles (sometimes referred to as their “law en- forcement” and “social work” roles).9 As social control agents, probation officers have a responsibility to protect the community and to make sure that their clients follow the rules of probation. This is their law enforcement role. On the other hand, they may be expected to work closely with other agencies and with parents in assisting their clients. Moreover, they are expected to work closely with the youths on their caseload in order to help them make appropriate choices and avoid further law-violating behavior. This is their social work role. Their law enforcement and social work roles are not always compatible,10 and individual officers may deal with the role conflict by emphasizing one role over another or by attempting to balance the roles,11 often emphasizing different roles with different probationers. However, large caseloads cause many probation of- ficers, regardless of their own beliefs about their roles, to operate in a crisis intervention mode. When clients’ problems come to their attention, they attempt to react to these crises as best they can, but they may have very little time left over to spend in providing proactive assistance to clients.


There Is Considerable Variability in Probation Practice although probation involves doing intake screening, conducting presentence investigations, supervising cases, providing assistance to clients, conducting ongoing evaluations of clients’ needs, and completing routine job-related administrative tasks, the amount of time that probation officers spend on the different tasks varies considerably. In some jurisdictions, probation officers spend a majority of their time dealing directly with clients or making client-related contacts designed to assist youths on probation. In other juris- dictions, much of their time is spent preparing court reports and engaging in other administrative tasks.

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The Organization of Juvenile Probation The organization and administration of juvenile probation varies from state to state.

The most common model is for probation to be part of a state executive agency. This model is used in 12 states (Alaska, Delaware, Florida, Kentucky, Maine, Maryland, New Hampshire, New Mexico, North Carolina, Rhode Island, South Carolina, and Vermont). Also, state executive agencies are involved in some way in the administration of probation in 11 other states (Georgia, Louisiana, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Oregon, Tennessee, Virginia, and Wyoming). Within those states where a state executive agency has all or some responsibility for administering probation, the most common type of state executive agency used to administer probation is a juvenile corrections agency, such as a state Department of Juvenile Justice. In other states, the executive agency responsible for probation, at least in part, is a state child protection agency, human services agency, or an adult corrections agency.12

In addition to the state executive agency model of juvenile probation administration, other states employ a local judicial model in which juvenile probation is placed under local juvenile courts. This is the model employed in 9 states (Arizona, Arkansas, Colorado, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Pennsylvania, and Texas). Also, in 15 other states (Ala- bama, California, Georgia, Louisiana, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Nevada, Ohio, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Virginia, Washington, Wisconsin, and Wyoming) probation is administered by local juvenile courts in some parts of the state, such as urban areas.13

In other states, a state-level judicial model is used to administer probation. In this model, a state-level judicial agency, such as a State Court Administrator’s Office or Ad- ministrative Office of the Courts, oversees the operation of probation services. Ten states use the state-level judicial model (Connecticut, Hawaii, Iowa, Massachusetts, Montana, Nebraska, New Jersey, South Dakota, Utah, and West Virginia). The District of Columbia also uses a judicial model in which the Family Court of the District of Columbia Superior Court oversees the operation of probation.14

The least common model of probation administration is the local executive model. Only one state, New York, places juvenile probation entirely under a local executive agency. In New York, 58 county probation departments are responsible for providing probation services. However, in five other states (California, Nevada, Ohio, Washington, and Wis- consin) local executive agencies are responsible for probation services in some areas. Also, in one state, Oregon, responsibility for juvenile probation is shared by a state agency (the Oregon Youth Authority) and local executive agencies (county juvenile departments).15

Research on Standard Juvenile Probation Effectiveness Research on the effectiveness of juvenile probation is complicated by the wide vari-

ability in probation practices across and within jurisdictions, by the lack of research on probation in general, and by the failure of studies of probation to clearly document the types of interventions used by probation officers and the quality of services provided to youths. The lack of research on probation effectiveness is somewhat surprising con- sidering that juvenile probation has existed since the mid-1800s. Nevertheless, some studies indicate that probation is effective at both reducing and prolonging recidivism16

and represents a cost-effective alternative to incarceration,17 particularly for moderately delinquent youths.18 Other studies, however, suggest that probation does not appear to be particularly effective at reducing recidivism, particularly for those involved in serious delinquency,19 thus questioning its ability to protect the public from chronic or serious offenders. Other research indicates that community-based programs have often failed to provide needed services to clients and have failed to reduce correctional costs.20

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Given the variation in the level of supervision and quality of services provided to youths on probation, it is not surprising that the limited research on probation effec- tiveness has produced mixed findings. However, more recent research that has explored program effectiveness indicates that some juvenile justice programs, including programs for serious, violent, and chronic juvenile offenders, are effective. For example, a meta- analysis of more than 500 programs conducted by Mark Lipsey found that the typical juvenile justice program reduced recidivism. Indeed, the recidivism rate in more than 200 court supervision programs ranged from 21 to 34%.21 Moreover, an earlier meta-analysis of 200 experimental or quasi-experimental studies of programs for serious offenders found that the typical program for these youths reduced recidivism by 12% and the most effective programs reduced recidivism by 40%.22 In addition, an examination of juvenile probation in selected jurisdictions conducted by Howard Snyder and Melissa Sickmund found that only 15% of juvenile probationers were adjudicated for new offenses while they were on probation.23 Not only is there increasing evidence that many court operated programs for offenders are effective at reducing recidivism, there is also evidence that community-based interventions are more cost effective than institutional programs.24

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