In 2005, the National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges (NCJFCJ) published the Juvenile Delinquency Guidelines to guide court improvement in handling of juvenile delinquency cases. This seminal publication outlined best practices, which could be used to help courts identify problem areas, to plan for change, and to implement improvement that was critically needed.
In 2017, NCJFCJ determined that it was necessary to revisit the Juvenile Delinquency Guidelines to ensure that this vital resource remained relevant. In the years between the original publication of the Juvenile Delinquency Guidelines and this update, the juvenile justice field had taken several leaps forward in understanding youth and responding to delinquent behavior. Changes in court practice, advances in brain science and the understanding of adolescent development as well as juvenile specific rulings from the Supreme Court were the driving forces behind this update. The NCJFCJ would like to thank the State Justice Institute for providing the funding to complete these changes.
A Publication Update Committee of national experts and judges was assembled to identify areas of the document requiring an update. It was through the efforts of this committee that the Enhanced Juvenile Justice Guidelines was completed. Without their hard work and dedication this publication would not have been possible. NCJFCJ would also like to extend our deepest appreciation to the original development committee who gave generously of their time and energy to the creation of the Juvenile Delinquency Guidelines. Finally, NCJFCJ would like to acknowledge two subject matter experts who lent their expertise to this updated publication. Gina Vincent, Ph.D. who provided expert content and feedback regarding screening and assessment of youth and Kristan N. Russell, M.A. who developed the recommendations for the treatment of juvenile sex offenders. This document is not a reflection of the current state of juvenile justice today, but of what juvenile justice practice can be in the future.
Funding for this publication report was provided by the State Justice Institute through Award #SJI-17-P-199 to the National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges. Points of view or opinions expressed are those of the report contributors and do not necessarily represent the official position or policies of the funder or the National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges.
This will only cover the Probation and Parole Violations section from the Enhanced Juvenile Justice Guidelines, please download the PDF full access to the entire document.
This chapter addresses the juvenile justice system’s response to a youth who has been placed on probation or parole and who is committing technical violations of the court-approved plan. Technical violations are defined as violations that are not new alleged criminal acts. Examples of technical violations include failure to report to probation or parole appointments, failure to attend court-ordered services, or being absent without leave from court-ordered step-down placement.
If a youth on probation or parole commits a new criminal act, the prosecutor should not generally approve a probation or parole violation, but instead should file a petition alleging the violation of law to ensure due process is maintained. Filing both a petition for an alleged new criminal act and a probation violation alleging that the youth violated probation or parole by committing the alleged criminal act is duplicative and uses unnecessary additional resources.
All juvenile justice systems use probation as a common justice disposition with probation supervised by probation officers. The probation officer may be an employee of the juvenile justice court or a separate government unit. Probation services are delivered by state agencies in 22 states and by local agencies in 20 states. Nine states deliver probation services through a
placement through the state youth authority, reentry services are state operated in 38 states,
2 locallyoperatedinfivestates,andsharedbetweenstateandlocalagenciesineightstates. In
some juvenile justice systems, probation officers are responsible for reentry supervision when youth are released from community or institutional placement through the state youth authority. In some juvenile justice systems, employees of the state youth authority are responsible for reentry supervision when youth are released from community or institutional placement through the state youth authority. These individuals are often called parole officers, and the reentry supervision period called parole. A youth involved in reentry can be on probation or parole. With respect to parole violations, this chapter addresses only those situations where the juvenile justice court has jurisdiction over the period of parole.
Juvenile justice systems vary significantly regarding how they handle probation and parole violations, and what burden of proof is required. For example:
Given the great variation in practice across juvenile justice systems, it’s imperative to be aware of and follow the requirements and practices in your jurisdiction. Consult the court and/or state statute/legislation for additional guidance.
This chapter describes the juvenile justice court hearing process on a probation or parole violation when the juvenile justice system has a lesser burden of proof and requirements for handling probation and parole violations as compared to a new petition alleging a misdemeanor or felony, and when the juvenile justice court has reentry supervision authority for youth on parole. A juvenile justice court that has the same burden of proof and requirements for handling probation and parole violations as it does for a new petition alleging a misdemeanor or felony should use the procedures described in Chapters 3, 4, 6, and 7.
At the time the juvenile justice court judge places a youth on probation or parole, the judge approves a probation or finalized reentry plan, and the plan becomes part of the juvenile justice court’s orders. The specifics of these plans are discussed in Chapter 7, Section D and Chapter 10, Section J (1). The plan should be individualized and include graduated responses, both sanctions and incentives. Standard boilerplate probation conditions written in legalese aren’t helpful and aren’t individualized to the youth. Juvenile justice courts should instead focus probation conditions on specific needs of youth (specific, not general), identified using risk-need assessment. Good probation orders that the youth and parents can understand combined with case management can reduce technical violations.
Understanding that incentives are more effective at changing youth behavior than sanctions, the case management plan should clearly detail incentives available to the youth for compliance. For example, the plan may state that the youth is eligible for a later curfew after one month with no technical violations. The juvenile justice court-approved plan should state clear consequences for technical violations of the plan and that these consequences become progressively more severe for repeated violations. For example, the plan may have stated that the first time the youth violates curfew the probation or parole officer will place the youth on one week of house arrest, and the second curfew violation will result in two weeks of house arrest.
Generally speaking, the probation or parole officer should have the authority to provide the majority of responses – both incentives and sanctions. But, the court-approved plan should also state what responses require juvenile justice court approval prior to implementation. Additional examples of incentives available to probation or parole officers include reduction in the number of face-to-face meetings or check-ins required, reduction in community service hours, etc. Additional examples of sanctions available to probation or parole officers include restrictions on the youth’s use of a car, restrictions on social activities, or imposition of community service hours. Examples of sanctions that should require the approval of the juvenile justice court judge before implementation include placing the youth on electronic monitoring, requiring the youth to report to a day or evening reporting center, or placing the youth outside of the home.
In many juvenile justice courts probation and parole violations are over-filed, i.e., probation officers or prosecutors file probation or parole violations for minor violations. This is not a good use of the court’s resources. The juvenile justice court judge should require the probation or parole department to submit plans for court approval that include sanctions that a probation officer can implement without returning the youth to court for minor violations.
When the consequence for a technical violation is included in the court-approved plan, but must be imposed by the juvenile justice court judge, a request for a review hearing is the appropriate method to bring the matter before the court. This process is described in Chapters 9 and 10.
The JUVENILE JUSTICE GUIDELINES recommends that youth not be placed in detention for technical violations.
All youth should be represented by counsel in the formal juvenile justice court, and counsel should be involved at every hearing. The same attorney who represented the youth on the petition that resulted in the court order of probation or parole should represent the youth on a probation or parole violation.
Purpose of the Hearing
The purpose of a hearing on a probation or parole violation is for the juvenile justice court judge to determine:
Timing of the Hearing
The hearing on a probation or parole violation, if the youth has been summoned to the juvenile justice court, should be set as soon as the juvenile justice court can notify all required participants and preferably within two weeks after the violation occurred. If the juvenile justice court judge issued a warrant, and the youth was arrested and placed in detention, the hearing should be held the next court day, but no later than 48 hours after placement in detention. Consequences of a violation must be imposed as close as possible to the commission of the violation in order to maximize behavior change.
Who Should Be Present
The following individuals should be present at a probation or parole violation hearing:
Information the Juvenile Justice Court Should Have
The following information should be available to the juvenile justice court, the prosecutor, and youth’s counsel at a probation or parole violation hearing:
Reading of the Violation and Explanation of the Hearing Process
The juvenile justice court judge should begin the hearing by reading the violation the youth is alleged to have committed and explaining the process and the burden of proof that the judge will use to decide whether the youth committed the alleged violation. The judge should explain the possible consequences if the court finds the youth committed the violation.
Presentation of Information Regarding the Alleged Violation
The prosecutor should call on the appropriate individuals to provide information that supports the commission of the alleged violation. Sworn testimony is not required unless requested by counsel for the youth. Counsel for the youth has the opportunity to ask questions related to the information presented.
The youth’s counsel, if desired, should call on individuals to provide information that supports a finding that the youth did not commit the alleged violation. The prosecutor has the opportunity to ask questions related to the information presented.
After all information has been presented regarding the alleged violation, the juvenile justice court judge must find whether or not the prosecutor has proven that the youth committed the violation.
Presentation of Progress Related to the Court-Approved Plan and Sanction Recommendations
The probation or parole officer presents information regarding the services and interventions that have been provided as required by the court-approved plan, including education services. The probation or parole officer describes the youth’s, parent’s, and physical custodian’s involvement in, and response to those services, and makes a recommendation. The prosecutor
and counsel for the youth have the opportunity to ask questions and present their recommendations if different from the probation or parole officer’s recommendation.
The juvenile justice court judge gives the parents, legal custodian, physical custodian, the youth, service representatives, and tribal council representative, if applicable, the opportunity to address the court with information, recommendations, and questions.
In keeping with the plan of graduated responses, where the youth and parent have made progress, the juvenile justice court judge should speak specifically to the youth and parents, providing praise, encouragement, and other incentives as appropriate to the gains. Where the youth or parent has not made progress, the judge should address the appropriate individual, implement a response if appropriate, and clearly state the realistic consequences of a continued lack of progress or compliance.
In order to ensure that all issues have been covered at the probation or parole violation hearing, the juvenile justice court judge should know the answers to all of the following questions before deciding the court’s response to the violation and concluding the hearing:
Once the juvenile justice court judge or judicial officer believes that all issues have been considered and all necessary information has been presented, the judge should make the appropriate orders, explaining the orders to those present and the reasons for the orders. The juvenile justice court’s written findings and orders should be stated in language understandable by the youth and family and with enough detail to support the court’s actions. The court’s findings and orders should be set out in writing and made available to all legal parties and key participants at the conclusion of the hearing. The findings and orders should include:
A statement that the youth continues under the status of probation or parole, if applicable, and the date and time of the next progress hearing, progress report, case staffing, or progress conference regarding the youth.
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