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

 201520142013 | 2012 | 2011 | 2010 | 2009 


  • California Expands Youth Offender Parole Hearings to Individuals Aged 18-22 When Sentenced: S.B. 261 expands the requirement for a youth offender parole hearing from youth under 18 years old to those youth who were under the age of 23 when they committed the acts for which they were sentenced to state prison. Pursuant to this new law, youth who were sentenced to state prison for specified crimes that they were convicted of committing when they were less than 23 years old are entitled to a parole hearing where their release will be considered. It is estimated that as many as 16,000 people in California prisons were still teens and young adults at the time of their arrest. S.B. 261 was authored by Senator Hancock and signed into law Oct. 3, 2015.


  • California Ensures Reenrollment Rights for Youth Returning from Juvenile Justice Facilities
    Assembly Bill 2276 requires a pupil who has had contact with the juvenile justice system to be immediately enrolled in a public school. The legislation also has several mechanisms to facilitate the successful transition of these youth into the public schools. It requires the county office of education and county probation department to develop joint transition planning policies on issues such as improving communication regarding the release dates and educational needs of juvenile justice involved youth, coordinating the immediate school placement and enrollment of these youth, and ensuring probation officers have the information that they need to support the youths’ return to public school. Additionally, subject to funding, it requires the convening of a statewide group to study successful county programs and develop model policies relating to the prompt transfer of education records and credits and the immediate enrollment of students transferred from juvenile justice schools. Assembly Bill 2276 was authored by Assembly Member Raul Bocanegra and signed into law on September 30, 2014.

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  • Illinois Expands Aftercare for Youth in Department of Justice Custody: The Illinois General Assembly expanded aftercare release for youth, allowing all youth committed to the Department of Juvenile Justice (DJJ) to be eligible for aftercare, regardless of the length of time he or she has been confined or whether the youth has served a minimum term. Additionally, the law states that youth under aftercare release must be supervised by DJJ; prior to the law, aftercare was not available statewide and was supervised by the Department of Corrections, rather than DJJ. S.B. 1192/Act No. 98-0558, signed into law August 27, 2013; effective January 1, 2014.
  • Maryland — Department of Juvenile Services Must Report on Implementation of Graduated Response System: The Maryland legislature passed a requirement that the Department of Juvenile Services report to the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee and the House Judiciary Committee on the implementation of a system of graduated responses for children under the jurisdiction of the Department. S.B. 536/Act No. 496, signed into law May 16, 2013; effective October 1, 2013.
  • Oklahoma Emphasizes Individualized Treatment for Youth: The Oklahoma State Legislature passed a law emphasizing individualized treatment and best practices for youth rehabilitation and reentry. The law also expands the definition of community-based facilities to cover 24-hour emergency living accommodations for youth in crisis (including those involved with law enforcement or the courts). These accommodations may provide care, education, mental health services, and other services to address trauma and aid in the transition to permanent placement. S.B. 679/Act No. 404, signed into law May 31, 2013; effective November 1, 2013.
  • Oregon Authorizes Work Release Program for Youth with Criminal Convictions Who Are Confined in Youth Facilities: New legislation authorizes the Oregon Youth Authority (OYA) to establish a work release program for youth who are committed to the Department of Corrections, but in the physical custody of OYA. The legislation allows youth to leave facilities for employment, additional education, substance abuse programs, mental health programs, or programs to help develop independent living skills. Youth who have been convicted of more serious offenses are excluded from the program. S.B. 188/Act No. 229, signed into law and effective May 23, 2013.

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  • Maine — Youth with Deferred Dispositions May Be Given Conditional Release: Maine law now allows conditional release under the supervision of a community corrections officer as an option for youth with deferred dispositions. The law was enacted in an effort to help youth who are charged in the delinquency system keep their records clean/sealed. H.P. 1206/Act No. 480, signed into law and effective March 1, 2012.
  • North Carolina Limits Probation Officer Visits at Schools: North Carolina passed a law that limits probation officer visits on school property during school hours. Probation officers may make such visits only with prior authorization from school administrators. Visits must take place in a private area away from the general student population and probation officers may not initiate contact with students while they are in class or between classes. S.B. 707/Act No. 2012-149, signed into law July 12, 2012; effective at the beginning of the 2012-2013 school year. 
  • South Carolina Allows for Reduction in Probation and Parole Terms for Youth: New legislation in South Carolina allows the Department of Juvenile Justice (DJJ) to reduce probation or parole terms for youth. DJJ may reduce the terms up to ten days for each month that youth comply with the terms and conditions of their probation or parole. S.B. 300/Act No. 227, signed into law and effective June 18, 2012.

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      • 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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      • 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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        • 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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Photo: Peta Calvert, under Creative Commons License