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Youth Probation Conditions Can Set Them Up For Failure, Report Says

Research shows that the most effective way to reduce recidivism for youth in the juvenile justice system is to identify and address the needs, such as substance use and negative peers) driving individuals’ delinquent behavior.

Probation—the most common juvenile justice intervention—is typically based on monitoring youth’s compliance with a broad set of rules, conditions, and court orders that are not oriented around what research shows works to promote youth behavior change, individual and system accountability and system.

As a result, these conditions can undermine public safety and outcomes for youth by setting them up for failure, making them feel like they are being treated unfairly, and distracting courts and probation agencies from focusing on individuals' specific risks and needs, says the Council of State Governments Justice Center.

Juvenile court and probation practices can vary widely. At the same time, state laws and court rules can shape and sometimes dictate the culture, policies, and practices of how youth are supervised and served statewide.

The justice center has published a 50-state analysis of whether and how juvenile probation conditions and/or related court orders are codified in statute and court rules.

The center examined whether state policies guide the enforcement of these conditions, including the use of incentives, graduated sanctions, and detention and incarceration as a response to youths' compliance.

Given that probation violations are a significant driver of new probation cases, detention placements, and incarceration in state custody, the analysis reviewed whether states require public entities to collect and report data on these violations.

In 2019, six percent of juvenile arrests nationwide were for violent offenses. Some 245,925 youth were placed on some form of juvenile probation.

One third of youths put on probation had committing an offense against a person.

More than one third of youths put on probation were Black, compared with a 13.4 percent Black proportion of nationwide juvenile population.

Sixty percent of states required or authorized juvenile courts and/or probation agencies to impose a standard set of conditions or related list of rules and sanctions for youth placed on probation.

The conditions most commonly applied: 1. Obey all laws and refrain from possession of firearms and other weapons. 2. Attend school daily. 3. Participate in any court-ordered assessments, treatment, and other programming. 4. Forfeit driver’s license privileges. 5. Submit to regular drug and alcohol tests. 6. Complete community service hours and victim restitution payments. 7. Pay court and probation fines and fees.

The center's probation project was funded by Arnold Ventures.


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