It is important for juvenile delinquents to immerse themselves in activities that would help them turn their life around. Luckily, there are many probation programs available for them. Two of the programs included in the long list are the school-based probation program and juvenile drug court program.
Jackson County in Illinois has a school-based probation program. Since the probationers are in a school setting, it is easier for the probation officers to supervise them closely (Ashley, 2006, p.1). According to Jessica Ashley (2006), in the Program Evaluation Summary of the Illinois Justice Information Authority, the school-based probation program was created with these objectives in mind: to increase juvenile accountability, to reduce violence in schools, increase success rates with juvenile probationers and to foster better communication between probation departments and schools (p.1).” These are the considerations in the development of the program.
Moreover, the program has a separate list of its initial goals. The first goal is the “greater juvenile recognition of probation monitoring (Ashley, 2006, p.1).” Since the program’s setup includes probation officers being in such close proximity with the probationers, the latter will have more awareness of the probation system because they encounter it first hand. The second goal is “improved quality of relationships between probation and schools (Ashley, 2006, p.1).” To begin with, a juvenile spends a lot of time in school, and if one is considered a delinquent, he or she will spend time in probation. If before it was two separate cases, now the juvenile can be on probation while being in school. Both the probation officers and teachers can supervise the juveniles closely, and with greater understanding of their individual roles.
The third goal is “improved relationships between probation officers and parents (Ashley, 2006, p.1).” The parents will gain a clearer perspective of the program since they can see their kids at school. They can also follow their child’s progress by developing a relationship with the probation officer. Goal number four is “more immediate attention to potential violations (Ashley, 2006, p.1).” Since the probation officers are closely monitoring the probationers, the former can easily take action in case any problems occur. The fifth goal is also connected to the fourth one: “A decrease of 20 percent in juvenile offenses (Ashley, 2006, p.1).” The fact that the juvenile probationers know that they are constantly monitored and that their probation officers are in such a close proximity, they would hesitate to involve themselves in further trouble.
This would obviously result in a decrease in future violations. The last goal is “improvements in the quality of education (Ashley, 2006, p.1).” Now that the probation officers have access to the school, they could determine if the cases of the juvenile delinquents are in anyway caused by the quality of the education. If a student becomes a juvenile delinquent, and he or she participates in the school-based program, not only will the respective student be monitored, but the school as well. This program places the probation system in school; thus, the school is put on focus. It would be beneficial if the authorities figured out if certain violations could have been prevented within the confines of the school, so that a juvenile need not be in probation in the first place.
In addition, since the program enables rapport between the teachers and probation officers, both parties can work together to improve the program. For the school, the probation officers can suggest guidelines for the teachers to prevent students from doing delinquent acts. Furthermore, the quality of education can improve if and when probation officers see the need for certain areas in the curriculum to be modified, in relation to the prevention of increase in juvenile delinquent cases.
In turn, the program can benefit greatly from the assistance and feedback of the teachers. It is because the teachers are the ones who supervise the students in the classroom. If there is a slight change in the student’s behavior, it is the teacher who can observe it first hand. The teacher can then send feedback to the probation officer, who can take care of the problem.
The program will definitely not work without the school-based officers (SBOs). They are in charge of the supervision of the juvenile probationers within the confines of the school. The SBOs also have their counterparts outside the schools. They are called the line officers; they are responsible for the juvenile probationers everywhere else outside the school, like in the courthouses during hearings (Ashley, 2006, p.2). The program entails close supervision; schools maybe the center of the program but that does not mean the juvenile probationers will not be supervised elsewhere. Wherever the probationers are, they will be under the guidance of both SBOs and line officers. Therefore, it will lead to the prevention of other violations.
Even if the line officers also play an important role, it is the SBOs who have the weightier task since the program operates on their area of responsibility. The SBOs have eight distinct duties: one, it is their job to coordinate activities with school authorities (Ashley, 2006, p.2). Because the program is school-based, it follows that the SBOs cannot work independently from the school. They have to abide by the guidelines the school to make the program work. The school must approve of the activities that will be carried out within their territory. Their second duty entails “working with various school personnel to advance academic achievement and promote personal development for juveniles on probation” (Ashley, 2006, p.2).
The program is after all, a rehabilitation program. It helps troubled kids turn their lives around and the best place to start is with their education. Kids who are focused with their studies will stay away from trouble, and the best people to help the probationers focus on their studies are the school personnel themselves. If the school personnel coordinate with the SBOs, the juvenile probationers’ academic progress will be monitored and it will continue to improve. Moreover, if the juveniles’ academic standing improves, so will their personal development. It is because good grades can boost one’s self-esteem, and once the kids are confident with themselves, they will continue to do well in school. The SBOs third task is be the resource person for the juvenile probationer (Ashley, 2006, p.2).
Since the SBOs have the most access to the juvenile, he or she is obviously the best person to go to with regards to anything pertaining to the probationer. The SBO has the most information about the juvenile since the former has the latter under his or her watch in school; if the school officials or the juvenile’s family has any inquiries, they know who to approach. Consequently, if the juvenile probationer needs anything or has important inquiries, the SBO is present to answer questions. The fourth duty involves the probationer’s attendance. Because the probation officers based in school, it is their task to make sure their clients go to class. Furthermore, because the probationers know that they are involved in a school-based program, they are aware that their attendance is a must.
Duty number five involves the SBOs coordinating with both school officials and local authorities “to promote safety and prevent violence and substance abuse (Ashley, 2006, p.2).” The business of monitoring juvenile probationers also needs the participation of the local authorities. Just in case anything happens, there will be an extra hand to help. The sixth duty of the school-based probation officer is to help in “facilitating re-entry of clients into school after residential treatment or detention (Ashley, 2006, p.2).” After a juvenile has committed a delinquent act, certain sanctions will be given and sometimes it includes being confined at home.
This experience will certainly affect the probationer, and transition between suddenly being isolated from peers to again interacting with them has its own difficulties. Thankfully, the SBOs are there to make the transition easier. Another duty of the SBO is to encourage parents to get involved with their child’s academic development (Ashley, 2006, p.2). In general, parents should be involved with their children’s academic development, whether or not they have committed delinquent acts. However, a juvenile delinquent needs more parental involvement since this is key in rehabilitation. Parental encouragement is essential in maintaining a probationer’s academic progress. Lastly, the SBOs are tasked to visit the classrooms of the juveniles under probation. Evidently, this is the best way for SBOs to monitor their probationers because it is a school-based program.
The program has noble intentions, and the people behind it work hard to make the program effective. However, even the best laid plans have its obstacles. The program has its own list of problems. One of which includes the functions of both the line officers and the SBOs. Because the SBOs’ job is confined within the school and the line officers’ task is broader, the unequal distribution of tasks becomes an immediate problem. Moreover, for every case there are two officers in charge, but they do not share information and keep their own reports (Ashley, 2006, p.2). Therefore, there is no organization between the two.
The premise that the two would work together is not put in practice. Another issue is that the probationers themselves cannot delineate the responsibilities of the two officers in charge (Ashley, 2006, p.2). Furthermore, the SBOs’ job has a limitation. Since their work is within the campus premises, they will face the dilemma if being unemployed when the schools are on break. In addition, since the school-based probation program is relatively new, the people recruited as SBOs are more often than not, inexperienced. This issue must be resolved through a thorough training system for future school-based officers.
Sadly, the aforementioned assigned duties of the SBOs are not fulfilled. Instead of having ample time to monitor their clients, the SBOs only meet with their probationers from ten to fifteen minutes, with only school issues as topics of discussion (Ashley, 2006, p.3). Whenever their clients are absent, the SBOs are not tasked to conduct home sessions (Ashley, 2006, p.3). In terms of the record system, the program is problematic. Aside from the uncoordinated records from the line officer and the SBO, the problem is exacerbated once a turnover has been done. Also, data from the schools are inaccessible because of confidentiality policies (Ashley, 2006, p.3).
The program necessitates close collaboration between SBOs, teachers and parents, but they have little to no contact (Ashley, 2006, p.3). The program is developed in such a way that good behavior and academic improvement are primary goals. However, the program at present was found to effect better behavior, but no grade improvements. Among all the problems the program faces, the weightiest one is about the objectives not being clear to the participants and personnel involved (Ashley, 2006, p.3). Despite all these road blocks, the program still manages to have more growth than decline. According to Ashley (2006), “School personnel generally regarded the program as successful, with more overall positive effect on juvenile probationers than negative (p.3).”
Another probation program used to rehabilitate juvenile delinquents is the juvenile drug court program. What does it do and how does it work? Caroline Cooper (2001) writes in the Juvenile Accountability Incentive Block Grants Program (JAIBG) Bulletin: “Juvenile drug courts are intensive treatment programs established within and supervised by juvenile courts to provide specialized services for eligible drug-involved youth and their families (p.1).” It is within the confines of the juvenile courts where the rehabilitation program begins. They closely monitor the juveniles with respect to the judicial processes, and the program is specified to those who are involved in substance abuse (Cooper, 2001, p.1).
Moreover, the program also operates by attacking the root of the problem: it starts with providing services that would analyze how juveniles are involved with the judicial system in the first place. The services include “substance abuse treatment, mental health, primary care, family, and education (Cooper, 2001, p.1).” These services are further specified. The juvenile drug courts provide “family therapy, literacy skills building, vocational training, mentoring, prosocial activities and other family support services (Cooper, 2001, p.2).”
The juvenile drug court program has several key elements. First, it necessitates the existence of a team to supervise a specific case. This team must include a “judge, prosecutor, defense attorney, treatment provider, evaluator and school representative (Cooper, 2001, p.3)” to help in supervising the needs of the juvenile and his family. This is the core group to facilitate any particular case.
Another key element is the court’s capacity to follow through. The moment a juvenile becomes involved in the system, the court will intervene and will have the license to closely monitor hearings with the juvenile’s family (Cooper, 2001, p.4).
The third element is the “development of a court-supervised program of substance abuse treatment (Cooper, 2001, p.4).” The moment a juvenile gets involved in the program, it is the juvenile courts’ task to provide the juvenile and his or her family services that will help them improve and get back on track. It is necessary that the treatments and other services be coordinated for effectivity, and that is the fourth element.
Element number five is the constant and periodical monitoring of the juvenile’s progress in the program, which includes “frequent random urinalysis, continuous supervision and proactive case management (Cooper, 2001, p.4).” The urinalysis is key in determining if the program works or not, whether it is effective in discouraging further substance abuse in the future. The sixth element is related to the fifth one, because it entails instant judicial reply with regards to the juvenile’s progress (Cooper, 2001, p.4).
The court must monitor the progress of a juvenile, and at the same time give a quick response to this progress. The seventh element of a juvenile drug court program is the judge. The program will not work without a judge who has genuine concern for juveniles and their families, one who is devoted to the case of discouraging substance abuse and specifically trained in that respective field. The program needs experienced experts to enact its policies, and the judge is the most important of all of them. Lastly, the eighth element is “a program philosophy that focuses on capitalizing on the strengths of each juvenile and his or her family (Cooper, 2001, p.4).”
The juvenile drug court program has key goals it wants to achieve. The first goal is to “provide immediate intervention, treatment and structure in the lives of juveniles using drugs through the ongoing, active oversight and monitoring by the drug court judge (Cooper, 2001, p.7).” It is its first and most important goal: to assist juveniles with drug problems by providing treatment and services to the juvenile and his or her family. The second goal is to “improve juveniles’ level of functioning in their environment, address problems that may be contributing to their use of drugs, and develop/strengthen their ability to lead crime- and drug-free lives (Cooper, 2001, p.7).” The program would be useless if it did not target the possible causes of drug abuse; thus, it must start resolving the issue before it becomes a problem.
Prevention is better than cure. The third goal is to “provide juveniles with skills that will aid them in leading productive substance-free and crime-free lives, including skills relating to their educational development, sense of self-worth, and capacity to develop positive relationships in the community (Cooper, 2001, p.7).” The second and third goal simply states the need to maintain supervision in every step of the way for juveniles.
After they have been immersed in the program, the juveniles should be able to get back on track with all they have learned in the program. The fourth goal is to “strengthen the families of drug-involved youth by improving the capacity of families to provide structure and guidance to their children (Cooper, 2001, p.7).” When a juvenile is involved with drugs, the family is affected as well. Therefore, families should be involved in the rehabilitation process. The last goal is to “improve system capacity to promote accountability for both juvenile offenders and the services they are provided (Cooper, 2001, p.7).”
The juvenile drug court program is good, but not without problems. The first apparent problem is the complexity of the nature of the case (Cooper, 2001, p.9). Juvenile drug court cases are complicated; some problems may not even be evident at first glance. Some problems (i.e. health issues) may only surface in the middle of the program. Therefore, there is a need for continuous and thorough assessment (Cooper, 2001, p.9). Another problem is the family-and-individual concept. In essence, the treatments are family-based. In Cooper’s words, it is “family focused (Cooper, 2001, p.9).” This is not to say the individual is ignored; it simply means the program is group-oriented. Ergo, treatments for the individual must be developed further.
Both programs, the school-based probation program and the juvenile drug court program, have a lot to offer. It is centered in improving the lives of the juveniles by guidance and close supervision. They differ in certain areas, though. One has the school as the setting, the other, a juvenile court. The school-based probation program assigns two people in charge of one particular probationer, while the juvenile drug court program has a team of people closely monitoring it. The main man for the school-based probation program is the school-based probation officer or SBO, while the juvenile drug court assigns a judge to closely supervise a juvenile offender.
The juvenile drug court program is more effective in the sense that it targets a specific kind of juvenile delinquents, those who have dealt with substance abuse. The program targets a very specific group of people, making its goals more feasible because it steers away from generalities. A specific problem is easier to solve than a vague, broad one. This is the advantage of a juvenile drug court to a school-based probation program. Moreover, it makes rehabilitation a family affair, which makes the improvements long lasting since members of the family are immersed as well.
The program would benefit greatly from an example given by the school-based probation program. The juvenile courts should also focus on the school life of the juveniles. That would make improvement threefold. It is because not only is the juvenile closely monitored by himself, his family and school is supervised as well. These two are crucial influences in the life of a juvenile. It is critical to pay attention to them as well. In general, the juvenile drug court program is more effective because it is more specific. It has a definite direction and precise methods.
Ashley, J. (2006). Jackson County School-Based Probation Program: Lessons Learned. Retrieved November 19, 2007 from http://www.icjia.state.il.us/public/pdf/ProgEvalSummary/Vol%204_No_1_Jackson%20County%20School-based20Probation.pdf
Cooper, C. (2001). Juvenile Drug Court Programs. Retrieved November 19, 2007 from http://www.ncjrs.gov/pdffiles1/ojjdp/184744.pdf