WASHINGTON (April 1) – A disagreement over juvenile
probation reform has left Arkansas’ County
Judge Barry Hyde at a standoff with the circuit court judges who
currently oversee juvenile probation programs. Judge Hyde’s push for
legislative action comes in response to a 2017 study that found the county’s juvenile probation system needed an overhaul,
mostly due to poor organizational structure and management.

Each year, hundreds of
thousands of youth are referred to the justice system and placed on probation,
which makes probation the most common sanction for young people. Yet
despite its prevalence as a response to youth misbehavior, in its current form,
probation is often an ineffective long-term intervention.

In a new policy study, R Street’s Government Affairs Specialist and Manager of Criminal Justice and Civil Liberties Jesse Kelly, along with R Street’s Research Associate on Criminal Justice and Civil Liberties Emily Mooney, argue that to stem the tide of youth arrests, schools should collaborate with community organizations to provide these young people with greater behavioral health services. The two also contend that schools should work with these groups to instruct teachers on how to recognize the underlying problems associated with youth misbehavior and provide referrals to the appropriate services.

authors maintain that diverting youth out of the juvenile justice system
benefits not only the young people involved, but also law enforcement. Youth
who have positive interactions and lasting good relationships with police are
more likely to report problems in their communities later on — which
helps officers carry out the main function of their job.

authors conclude by asserting, “Before involving the youth justice system,
society should better empower parents, educators and community partners to
serve as the first line of defense. Involving the justice system when youth
commit simply immature but non-threatening
actions violates our principle of limited government.”    

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