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Advances in Juvenile Justice Reform: Probation, Parole, and Reentry

Probation, Parole, and Reentry: 2009 | 2010 | 2011 | Resources



2009

  • Alabama — Jefferson County Reforms Probation System: Continuing its probation reform campaign, the Jefferson County Family Court in Birmingham, Alabama has implemented a risk assessment instrument and structured decision-making grid to assist staff in making impartial, objective, and less restrictive dispositional decisions for adjudicated youth. These reforms ensure that dispositions are fair and that youth receive supervision consistent with their risk level. Jefferson County will continue its probation reforms by implementing differential supervision—a process that assigns caseloads to probation officers based on youth risk levels—and graduated sanctions, a response system that encourages youth to demonstrate positive behavior and comply with probation terms.
  • Illinois — Juvenile Justice Commission Studies Reentry Issues: Legislation in 2009 directed the Illinois Juvenile Justice Commission to study youth who are released from state custody but later returned for parole violations. The goal of the work is to reduce recidivism by youth and improve the safety of their home communities. The commission issued a report in November 2011 based on observations of 237 parole board hearings and review of the records of 386 youth whose parole was revoked between December 1, 2009 and May 31, 2010. The report notes several problems with the current system, and recommends that members of the parole board receive training in juvenile-specific topics; specific criteria be used to determine whether youth should be released, and that youth receive their decisions in writing; the parole board establish criteria that ensure youth are reviewed for release more often than once a year, and that youth can request such a hearing; and youth on parole be supervised by “aftercare specialists” trained to help them obtain schooling, treatment, and employment. S.B. 1725/Public Act 96-0853, signed into law and effective December 23, 2009.
  • Indiana — Law Provides for Suspension, Rather than Termination, of Medicaid for Incarcerated Youth: Prior to the passage of a new law in Indiana, the Division of Family Resources terminated Medicaid eligibility for all youth adjudicated delinquent and placed in confinement, delaying receipt of health services for youth upon reentry. Under the new law, the Division of Family Resources must suspend—not terminate—their Medicaid eligibility during the first six months of confinement, allowing for quicker and easier reenrollment after release. If it receives at least 40 days’ notice, the Division must also take action necessary to ensure that confined youth are eligible to participate in Medicaid upon release. The law requires the court to notify the Division if a pre-dispositional report or modified dispositional order indicates that a youth received Medicaid prior to confinement. H.B. 1536/Public Law 114, signed into law May 7, 2009; effective January 1, 2010 and July 1, 2009.
  • Maryland — Baltimore City Educational Project Helps Youth Leaving Detention Reenter Schools: In April 2009, as part of Baltimore City’s disproportionate minority contact (DMC) reduction efforts and the MacArthur Foundation’s Models for Change DMC Action Network, the Maryland Department of Juvenile Services and Baltimore City Public Schools collaborated to develop an education placement procedure for youth leaving detention, with the goal of expediting placement in appropriate community-based academic programs. The project, which involves representatives from detention, schools, probation, and community service providers, ensures that youth are placed in academic programs within five days of release from detention. The project connected 82 youth with academic placements within an average of 3.7 days of release from detention during its first 12 months.
  • Texas — Committed Youth to Be Assessed for Health Care Eligibility Before Release: Texas law now provides for a memorandum of understanding between state secure facilities and local juvenile probation departments to ensure that each committed youth is assessed for eligibility for state- or federal-funded health coverage before the youth’s release from placement, detention, or commitment. Federal law prohibits the use of Medicaid funds to pay for the care and services of youth in juvenile justice facilities. Previously, Texas removed youth from Medicaid- or state-funded health programs upon commitment to a facility and required the youth to reapply upon release. The new law will help streamline the process for re-enrollment and ensure that more youth have immediate health coverage upon release from a facility. H.B. 1630, signed into law and effective June 19, 2009.
  • Texas — Local Juvenile Probation Departments Must Report Annually to Governor and Legislature: The Texas Legislature now requires that local juvenile probation departments report annually to the governor and legislature on their operations and the condition of juvenile probation services in the state during the previous year. The report must include an evaluation of the effectiveness of community-based programs, and information comparing the cost of a youth participating in a juvenile probation services program with the costs of committing the youth to the Texas Juvenile Justice Department. S.B. 1374, signed into law June 19, 2009; effective September 1, 2009.

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2010

  • Illinois — General Assembly Broadens Options for Youth Facing Parole Revocation: Youth found to have violated parole in Illinois now have broader options, thanks to a new state law. Such youth may be continued under the existing term of parole, with or without modification; may be placed in a group home or residential facility; or may be recommitted. The law also instructs the Juvenile Justice Commission to develop recommendations regarding due process protections during release decision-making processes, including parole and parole revocation proceedings. H.B. 5914/Public Act 96-1271, signed into law July 26, 2011; effective January 1, 2011.
  • Kansas — Sedgwick County Implements Graduated Sanctions and Rewards for Youth on Probation: To reduce the number of youth entering detention for violating the terms of their probation, Sedgwick County developed a system of graduated sanctions and incentives in August 2009. The system equips probation officers with greater options to reward positive behavior and hold youth accountable for negative behavior without resorting to incarceration. Sedgwick County also developed a non-residential weekend reporting alternative to detention program in January 2010. These innovations, along with increased use of evidence-based practices and structured decision making, led to a drop in out-of-home commitments of 40 percent between 2006 and 2010. The number of youth locked up on any given day fell 20 percent between 2006 and 2011; as a result, county officials estimate that they are saving about $1.28 million per year on detention beds.

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2011

  • Connecticut — State Works to Streamline Reentry to School: Connecticut law now allows a student to re-enroll in his or her old school district after being sent to a juvenile detention center, the Connecticut Juvenile Training School, or another residential placement for committing an offense for which the student could be expelled from school. Before the student is discharged from detention, educational providers must assess the schoolwork he or she completed while incarcerated and determine how much academic credit to assign to it; credits must be accepted by the school to which the student returns. H.B. 6325/Public Act 11-115, signed into law July 8, 2011; effective July 1, 2011.
  • Florida — Legislature Addresses Need for Transition to Adulthood Services: Finding that “older youth are faced with the need to learn how to support themselves within legal means and overcome the stigma of being delinquent,” the Florida Legislature passed a law making justice-involved youth in the custody of the Department of Children and Family Services eligible for transition-to-adulthood services. The law requires transition services to be part of an overall plan leading to independence and states that an adjudication of delinquency must not on its own disqualify foster youth from receiving services. S.B. 404/Ch. 236, signed into law June 28, 2011; effective July 1, 2011.
  • Michigan — State Develops Youth Reentry Infrastructure and Services: The new Michigan Youth Reentry Initiative provides a multi-dimensional framework designed to stop the cycle of crime among Michigan’s youngest offenders and prepare them for successful transitions into adulthood. The model is based on the successful Michigan Prisoner Reentry Initiative, which serves adults. The three-phase, seven-point youth model describes how stakeholders can collaborate to deliver an evidence-based risk-reduction framework in courts, residential facilities, and communities. As of September 2011, the model was being implemented in the Michigan Department of Corrections’ Thumb Correctional Facility; Michigan Department of Human Services juvenile justice facilities; and Oakland County Department of Health and Human Services, Children’s Village Division. Initial evaluations for each site indicate significant reductions in recidivism since the model’s implementation.
  • Mississippi — Incarcerated Youth No Longer Forced into Alternative Schools After Release: School districts in Mississippi are no longer required to place youth returning from an out-of-home placement into an alternative school. School districts must individually assess transitioning youth using a strengths and needs assessment that includes a determination of the youth’s academic strengths and deficiencies. The individual assessment must also include a plan for transitioning the youth to a regular education setting at the earliest possible date. H.B. 1178/Ch. 424, signed into law March 16, 2011; effective July 1, 2011.

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Resources

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Photo: Peta Calvert, under Creative Commons License