Youth Probation in the Time of COVID-19

Key Points

The public health threat associated with incarceration has pressed policymakers to increase their use of community-based accountability options in lieu of incarceration, except when absolutely necessary for public safety. Juvenile correctional leaders should continue this trend of decarceration and diversion long-after the pandemic.
Jurisdictions have found that phone and virtual connection options can ease the traditional burdens faced by young people on probation (and probation officers), while serving as a conduit for much needed services. While they should not and cannot entirely replace in-person connections in the long-term, jurisdictions should incorporate virtual connections options permanently as they allow for more frequent and substantive engagement. Building an infrastructure for providing probation services virtually is not only vital for the current pandemic, but will be useful for future crises.
This pandemic has empowered probation officials to be more innovative and to work collaboratively with families to solve complex and dynamic needs. This flexibility and focus on partnering with and building the strengths of the family unit, as well as the young person on probation, should continue during and after the pandemic.

[C]oncerns about contagion have already required a substantial shift from normal probation protocols and will continue to do so as we prepare for a possible new wave of cases in the fall. However, this challenge also presents us with a unique opportunity to examine probation policies and outcomes ever more closely and to reorient the youth justice system’s goals.

Image credit: Michal Kalasek

Press release: How Covid-19 Has Changed Juvenile Probation for Good

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