INTRODUCTION …………………………………………………………………................PGS. 4-6
CHAPTER ONE- HISTORY……………………………………………………....….........PGS. 7-16
CHAPTER FOUR- DIVERSION …………………………………………………...............PGS. 50-54
CHAPTER FIVE- DETENTION. …………………………………………………................PGS.55-66
CHAPTER SEVEN- SUPERVISION ………………………………………………...........PGS. 80-94
CHAPTER NINE- SPECIAL POPULATIONS ……………………………………..........PGS. 117-136
  • Honorable John W. Davis, Montgomery, Circuit Judge (retired); Committee Chair
  • Honorable David J. Jordan, District Judge, Brewton
  • Mr. Cecil Hopkins, Tuscaloosa, Chief Probation Officer
  • Ms. Brenda Howell, Cullman, Chief Probation Officer
  • Ms. Stacie Martin, Juvenile Court Probation, Marshall County
  • Honorable Frank (Trippy) McGuire, III, Andalusia, District Judge
  • Honorable Mary C. Moore, Perry County Circuit Clerk
  • Honorable Charles Page, Circuit Clerk, Limestone County
  • Ms. Alma J. Turner, Anniston, Juvenile Court Probation
  • Mr. Harry Williams, Decatur, Chief Probation Officer
  • Mr. Steve Wooten, Montgomery, Juvenile Court Probation
  • Bob Maddox, AOC, Legal Division
  • Cary McMillan, AOC, MIS Division
  • Tom Monroe, AOC, Juvenile Services
  • Rob Sachar, AOC, Family Court Division
  • Karen Trussell, AOC, Family Court Division
   EDITOR: Jennifer Woods Arsenian
                                                      Honorable Sue Bell Cobb, Chief Justice
                                                      Callie T. Dietz, Administrative Director of Courts
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* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
This document was prepared by the Family Court Division of the Alabama
Administrative Office of the Courts. The research, organization, drafting and
content was developed by the Juvenile Probation Officers’ Manual Committee.
Significant reliance was placed upon a similar work produced by the National
Center for Juvenile Justice in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and the National Council
of Juvenile and Family Court Judges in Reno, Nevada. The Alabama committee
borrowed, with permission, greatly from that publication, Griffin, P., and Torbet,
P. (Eds.). (2002). “Desktop Guide to Good Juvenile Probation Practice”
Pittsburgh, PA: National Center for Juvenile Justice.. The intention has been to
cite every reference used by the “Desktop Guide” when also used in the Alabama
Periodic updates and revisions of this manual are anticipated as laws, regulations,
and practices evolve
                                                                               Alabama Administrative Office of Courts
  Family Court Division
  February 2007
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In 2005 Alabama Supreme Court Chief Justice Drayton Nabers, Jr., in response to suggestions from within Alabama’s Juvenile Justice System created a committee to draft a manual that was practical and easy to use for new, as well as veteran, juvenile probation officers. Seasoned juvenile probation officers, respected juvenile and family court judges, circuit clerks, and others were asked by the Chief Justice to lend their support to the effort. Administrative Office of Courts (AOC) staff provided a great deal of assistance to the project. In the summer of 2006, an editor was brought on board to help the committee put its work into a finished product.

The committee has relied greatly on a similar effort undertaken by the National Center for Juvenile Justice (NCJJ), which resulted in the widely acclaimed Desktop Guide to Good Juvenile Probation Practice in 2002. With permission of the NCJJ, the committee has borrowed extensively from the Desktop Guide and has given this manual an Alabama flavor with references to appropriate Alabama statutes, rules, case law, and opinions as well as ample references to juvenile probation practices widely accepted in the state. There are large portions of the NCJJ Desktop Guide, which are adopted without change. There are some portions which are modified to highlight the Alabama law and experience. Some portions were omitted as not critical to the committee’s desire to make this manual more practical than academic.

This manual is not intended to provide a significant historical account of the evolution of Juvenile Justice in the nation and in Alabama; however, there is some such information. The manual is not intended to be a substitute for precise legal advice about particular legal dilemmas which surface from time to time; however, there are ample references to key statutes and other legal authority throughout the manual. The manual is not intended to serve as a policy statement about various Juvenile Justice issues; however, there are many assertions about what the committee believes to be best practices for probation services.

The 2002 revision of the NCJJ’s Desktop Guide reflects an emerging consensus in favor of a more active, collaborative, results-oriented juvenile probation practice. After thoughtful discussion, the working group addressed these questions with a brief statement of the goals, values, and responsibilities of juvenile probation. These have served as the general principles guiding the updating of the Desktop Guide:
We envision the role of juvenile probation as that of a catalyst for developing safe communities and healthy youth and families. We believe we can fulfill this role by:

  • holding offenders accountable, building and maintaining community-based partnerships,
  • implementing results-based and outcome-driven services and practices,
  • advocating for and addressing the needs of victims, offenders, families, and communities,
  • obtaining and sustaining sufficient resources, and
  • promoting growth and development of all juvenile probation professionals.

The 2002 NCJJ Desktop Guide rejects the closed, passive, negative and unsystematic approach that had too often characterized traditional juvenile probation practice. That approach was not victim friendly, not community conscious and emphasized a litany of “do nots” for clients with little more than passive monitoring. Nobody, under prior probation traditions, was given responsibility for stating the goals and objectives and documenting the performance of outcomes of probation. 1

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Good juvenile probation practice is mission-driven, performance-based, and outcome-focused. One of the persistent themes of the Desktop Guide as revised is that the work of juvenile probation must be directed at clearly articulated and widely shared goals. It must be the acknowledged basis, not just for lofty slogans, but for day-to-day procedures, staff assignments, decisionmaking instruments and guidelines, budget allocations, and everything else that structures what a juvenile probation office does.

Good juvenile probation practice is also performancebased. It not only points at general goals, but actually moves from objective to objective toward those goals, designating concrete activities that are calculated to achieve its goals and holding itself responsible for performing them.

Good juvenile probation practice is outcome-focused. Both for individual offenders and for its caseload as a whole, it systematically measures the tangible results of its interventions, compares those results to its goals, and makes itself publicly accountable.

Protecting the public is one of the primary responsibilities of juvenile probation. The revised Desktop Guide reflects the juvenile probation profession’s current recognition of its direct responsibility for community safety. The traditional “offender-centered” point of view—in which the mission and goals of juvenile probation began and ended with the probationer—has clearly given way in recent years to something broader and more inclusive of the public interest. Most in the profession now acknowledge that the public’s main interest is in safety, and that ignoring that interest is the surest way of forfeiting public support.

Sticking with “fortress probation”—the passive, officebound, out-of-touch approach that values bureaucratic convenience over all other goals—is not an option. If juvenile probation is to shoulder its share of responsibility for public safety, juvenile probation line officers will have to work nontraditional hours rather than nine-to-five. Juveniles will have to be supervised in their schools and in their neighbor-hoods, rather than in government offices. Juvenile probation officers will have to begin keeping close track of public safety outcomes that matter to the community.

Juvenile probation’s public safety responsibilities also require its adoption of preventive as well as reactive crime-fighting strategies. Juvenile probation must support and if necessary lead community efforts to create conditions and programs that promote positive youth development and discourage delinquency.

Accountability is an important value both for juvenile offenders and for juvenile probation. Readers of the updated Desktop Guide will find clear indications of the central and growing importance of accountability to juvenile probation’s work and mission. Juvenile accountability requires that the juvenile justice system “respond to illegal behavior in such a way that the offender is made aware of and responsible for the loss, damage, or injury perpetrated upon the victim.” 2 It emphasizes restitution and community service as ways for juvenile offenders to pay their debts to victims and the public. It calls for teaching (and modeling) respect for victims, encouraging victim involvement, and considering victims’ views and interests in all decision-making.

The ideal of accountability advocated here is a broader, more inclusive one—taking in not only a juvenile’s accountability to victims and the community for past offenses, but also a juvenile probation department’s accountability for the way it manages that process. Just as a probation department must be clear and firm in setting expectations for juveniles, it must be publicly accountable for its own performance. It monitors probationers closely to ensure that they meet their obligations. It also continually measures itself in relation to its publicly stated goals.

Among the most important of those goals are fairness, consistency, and rationality in decision-making. The revised Desktop Guide returns again and again to the message that good juvenile probation practice—whether at intake, in connection with detention or diversion decisions, in assessing juveniles for purposes of recommending dispositions, or in post-disposition case planning and supervision—must be based on written procedures evenhandedly applied over time.

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Juvenile probation cannot succeed without community involvement and support. In the past, too many juvenile probation offices have had little or no contact with or input from the communities they serve— and they have suffered for it. The public has not understood their work or their importance. They have gotten no information, no ideas, no guidance and no enthusiasm from the people and neighborhood-level institutions best situated to support their efforts.

Local policy councils required by Alabama law have created a vehicle by which Juvenile Courts and probation services can obtain valuable input and feedback from its allied institutions. The most recent edition of the Desktop Guide encourages probation offices to look for ways to encourage community engagement with and ownership of the problem of delinquent juveniles. It will take changes as fundamental as school-based probationwhich involves plugging juvenile probation officers right into the grid of the community’s most important institution. It will take dispensing with the busy-work and time-serving that currently goes under the name “community service”, in favor of work that is actually generated, controlled, and valued by the people in whose name it is done. Most of all, it will take a sustained, neighborhood-by-neighborhood public education campaign-so that ordinary people understand what juvenile probation means, the mission it serves, the sanctions and supports it involves, and the hope it offers.

manual from time to time as laws change or practices evolve. The committee sincerely hopes that this manual will prove to be an invaluable tool for all juvenile court probation officers and that it will be the most dog-eared document in the juvenile probation officer’s office workspace.


1 Maloney, D., Bazemore, G., and Hudson, J. (Summer 2001). “The End of Probation and the Beginning of Community Justice.” Perspectives 25(3). Lexington, KY: American Probation and Parole Association.

2 Maloney, D., Romig, D., and Armstrong, T. (1988). “The Balanced Approach to Juvenile Probation.” Juvenile and Family Court Journal 39(3). Reno, NV: National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges.

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In this chapter , the following topics will be
  • the origins of juvenile courts and juvenile probation
  • the first juvenile probation officer
  • the development of juvenile probation to the present time

Juvenile probation and the juvenile court system developed together in America: both had their roots in optimism about young people.

Those who care about their profession tend to be curious to know something about its origins—at least enough to give them some sort of grounding. How long has juvenile probation been around? Who started it and why? What were its founding ideals? What crises has it weathered over the years? How has it changed since the early days? What about it has remained the same from the beginning?

This Chapter will sketch out some answers to these and other questions concerning from where juvenile probation began, and how it got to where it is today.

The traditional criminal law of England and America recognized only “infants” and adults.

Under American legal traditions inherited from England— from colonial times until around the start of the 20th century— who are now called “juvenile delinquents” fell into three basic categories:

  • Children under 7 were considered incapable of forming the intent to commit crimes, and had to be acquitted no matter what they had done. This was known as the “infancy defense,” and it was conclusive for those in this age group.
  • Children between 7 and 14 could also invoke the infancy defense, but it was not conclusive.

Prosecutors could and did present evidence to counter it—that is, to show that individual children in this age group were capable of criminal intent. When they succeeded, these children were punished just like adult criminals.

  • Children over 14 could not use the infancy defense at all. They were always prosecuted and punished just like adult criminals.1

It is not surprising that many people, even at the time, found this “infancy defense” system unsatisfactory. It could be barbarically harsh. Often prosecutors, judges, and juries let children go altogether, rather than expose them to the adult punishments authorized by law. However, as one reforming body pointed out in 1827, “If acquitted, they were returned destitute, to the same haunts of vice from which they had been taken, more emboldened to the commission of crime, by their escape from present punishment. If convicted, they were cast into a common prison with older culprits to mingle in conversation and intercourse with them, acquire their habits, and by their instruction to be made acquainted with the most artful methods of perpetrating crime.”2

Infants and Felonies

“Under seven years of age indeed an infant cannot be guilty of felony; for then a felonious discretion is almost an impossibility in nature: but at eight years old he may be guilty of a felony.”

Sir Wiliam Blackstone, Commentaries on the
Laws of England

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Long before there were juvenile courts, reformers sought in various ways to isolate young lawbreakers from older criminals, and to deal with them more effectively and humanely.

One common response was to create separate correctional institutions for children who broke the law. Beginning in 1825, “Houses of Refuge,” “Houses of Reformation,” “Reform Schools,” and other institutions for the care and training of juveniles were founded in many places. Eventually, there were state and municipal institutions, public and private ones, special ones just for girls, for Indians, for blacks and for Catholics, some that operated farms, workshops and factories, even nautical ones that turned out sailors for the whaling service and the merchant marine.3

Not all of these “schools” lived up to the hopes of their founders, of course. Many came to be considered more cruel than the laws they were created to soften. However, all were intended at least to treat children as children rather than criminals, to offer them “reformation” and help as well as cells in which to sleep, to teach them values and skills, and to look out for their welfare in something like the way a parent would. In fact, the legal theory went, for the children sent to these institutions, the state was a kind of parent.4

Another response to the inflexibility and potential harshness of the traditional criminal law during the 1800’s consisted of formal and informal efforts to keep delinquent young people out of institutions altogether. Sometimes convicted children were indentured or “bound out” by the authorities, for example, to serve apprenticeships instead of prison terms. Private homes were sometimes found for them by charitable agencies. In some large eastern cities, so-called “placement” or “children’s aid” societies went the system one better, and swept up merely destitute or vagrant children as a preventive measure, shipping them west by the carload to be placed with rural families in “the best of all asylums,” the farm home.5

Not A Prison, But A School

“The House of Refuge is not a prison, but a school. Where reformation, and not punishment, is the end…To this end may not the natural parent when unequal to the task of education, or unworthy of it, be superseded by the parens patriae, or common guardian of the community?”

Pennsylvania Supreme Court, Ex parte Crouse, 1839

Juvenile probation actually predated the juvenile court system—its “inventor” was a Boston shoemaker.

Beginning in the 1840’s in Boston, a shoemaker named John Augustus (1785-1859) came up with a less highhanded, and ultimately much more influential method of keeping children out of jail. He simply bailed them out, though he did not know them personally, and asked the court to continue their cases on the strength of their promise to behave and his own undertaking to help them. It was all very unofficial—Augustus never had a title or drew a salary from the court, though he became a fixture there. Nevertheless, he developed a kind of system. He chose suitable candidates on the basis of “the previous character of the person, his age and the influences by which he would in future be likely to be surrounded.” He assured the judge that, if those he had chosen were released, he “would note their general conduct, see that they were sent to school or supplied with some honest employment.” From time to time, he would “make an impartial report to the court, whenever they should desire it.” If their good behavior continued long enough— “I wished ample time to test the promises of these youth to behave well in the future,” Augustus later explained—they would be let off with small fines. Which Augustus himself sometimes paid.6

John Augustus

“In 1847, I bailed nineteen boys, from seven to fifteen years of age, and in bailing them it was understood, and agreed by the court, that their cases should be continued from term to term for several months, as a season of probation; thus each month at the calling of the docket, I would appear in court, make my report, and thus the cases would pass on for five or six months. At the expiration of this term, twelve of the boys were brought into court at one time, and the scene formed a striking and highly pleasing contrast with their appearance when first arraigned. The judge expressed much pleasure as well as surprise, at their appearance, and remarked, that the object of law had been accomplished…The sequel thus far shows, that not one of this number has proved false to the promises of reform they made while on probation.”—John Augustus, A Report of the Labors of John Augustus, for the Last Ten Years, in Aid of the Unfortunate, 1852.

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Counting juveniles and adults, Augustus bailed out over 1,800 people by the time of his death in 1859, making himself liable for a total of $243,234. He was the first to use the word probation in its modern sense (it derives from the Latin for “a period of proving or trial”). By trial and error, he developed most of the features of modern day probation practice, including pre-sentence investigations, conditions of supervision, court reports, and revocation. He died destitute.7

Probation supervision of juvenile delinquents— along roughly the lines laid out by John Augustus— became increasingly common over the next half-century. Professional “visiting agents” in several states took charge of the work, attending court hearings whenever children faced reform school commitments, recommending dispositions, overseeing arrangements for alternative placements, and making frequent supervisory visits to inquire into the treatment, health, associations and general well-being of those who were not placed in institutions.8 By the time truly separate courts for juveniles came along, this basic response to juvenile offending was already well-established. Probation was “a new kind of reformatory,” as one early proponent put it, “without walls and without much of coercion, but nevertheless seeking to bring to bear upon each child the influences which will make for his betterment, and seeking to provide for him, so far as possible in his own home, opportunities and facilities for education and discipline, which we have heretofore provided only in an institution.”9

Juvenile probation officers were entrusted with the work of the very first juvenile courts.

In 1899, the Illinois state legislature established a special court in Cook County (Chicago), one that used broad powers and informal procedures to promote the welfare of children in trouble, whether they were dependent, neglected or delinquent. Its object was to deal with law-breaking children in an entirely new way—to avoid the stigma of crime and criminality altogether—so that, as the new court’s enabling legislation put it, “as far as practical they shall be treated not as criminals but as children in need of aid, encouragement, and guidance.”10 Not everything about the new court was new, but it combined features that had never been combined before, and is now generally regarded as the nation’s—and the world’s—first juvenile court.11

Should Probation Officers Be Cops?

Early probation officers tended to be volunteers. Massachusetts passed the first law providing for a salaried probation officer—to serve both juveniles and adults—in 1878. It was a policeman, Lieutenant Henry C. Hemnenway, working under the supervision of the Chief of Police of Boston, who drew the first probation paycheck. The police-probation experiment was soon abandoned, however. In 1891, Massachusetts revised its law to prohibit police officers from being appointed probation officers. The power to appoint and supervise probation officers was transferred to the courts.

Source: Chute, C. (1930). “Probation Services Today – Progress or Retrogression.” 1930 Yearbook. New York, NY: National Probation association.

Among the juvenile court’s distinctive features was a primary reliance on probation and probation officers to guide and rehabilitate young offenders. As one of the first juvenile court judges wrote at the time, “probation for the child has been established wherever the juvenile court laws have been passed. Without it, there would not be much to juvenile court legislation. If all that we could do were to put the child into a school instead of a prison, we would not have reached a very much higher plane than that on which we stood before; but we have adopted as a fundamental principle the doctrine…that the place for a child is a home, and not an institution, and that the best place, if at all possible, is the child’s own home.”12 In the next few decades, virtually every state established publicly administered juvenile probation services, usually in concert with legislation establishing juvenile courts.

Juvenile probation’s organization, training, professionalism and confidence grew throughout the first half of the twentieth century.

It wasn’t long before juvenile probation officers formed their own professional organization: the National Probation Association held its first modest gathering in a Minneapolis church in 1907.13 By 1914, the group had published the influential Juvenile Courts and Probation, a text which helped shape juvenile probation throughout the twentieth century. Among other points, the book argued that probation should be “an active, constructive force in the lives of the children under its influence,” and that it should be performed by publicly paid, trained, full-time officers.

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The National Probation Association was also influential as a standard-setting organization, publishing its first official volume of standards for juvenile probation and juvenile courts in 1923, and the first Model Juvenile Court Act two years later.15

Meanwhile, state probation commissions were established in many places, probation was made a civil service occupation, and training and pay levels increased.16 During this period, both the juvenile courts and the juvenile probation profession enjoyed great prestige-and surprisingly little scrutiny. As one observer noted in the 1930’s, “praises abound, and criticism and doubt are rare.”17

A Vital Active Force

“This conception of probation as a vital, active force, naturally carries with it the requirement that those who exercise this function—the probation officers— should be trained, sympathetic, and experienced men and women. They must measure up to high standards of character, personality and ability; they must know child life, the problems of the family, local social conditions, and the use of social agencies. The probation officer must bring home to every child a feeling of the directing force of probation.”

—Flexner and Baldwin, Juvenile Courts and Probation, 1914.

The second half of the twentieth century saw a series of challenges to the juvenile courts and juvenile probation.

The new system of juvenile justice did not entirely live up to its billing, however. It did not result in less institutionalization of children, for instance, but more—in the name of treatment. But its treatment techniques never proved as effective as proponents had hoped either. Eventually, the fairness of its “informal” procedures, and even the benevolence of its overall aims—especially where immigrant and minority juveniles were concerned—were called into question by critics.18

Some of the most vigorous and significant challenges to the juvenile justice system were legal ones. In a string of landmark U.S. Supreme Court decisions, beginning with Kent v. United States in 1966, In re Gault in 1967, and In re Winship in 1970, many of the juvenile court’s traditional approaches and methods came in for stinging criticism.19 The informality and broad discretion that had been the hallmarks of the juvenile court and juvenile probation throughout their existence were now judged in the harshest possible light, and in many instances held to be arbitrary and unfair. This naturally did much to discourage and undermine the confidence of those who believed in the juvenile court’s rehabilitative mission, and whose careers had been spent pursuing it.

The effectiveness of juvenile justice methods was cast into doubt in the research literature during this period as well. To take one prominent example from the 1960’s, a theory of social deviance and control called “labeling” seemed to suggest that the more the juvenile justice system did in response to juvenile offending, the more it would stigmatize offenders, and the less it would accomplish.20 The labeling theory gained wide acceptance and had considerable influence. One of the major recommendations of the President’s Commission on Law Enforcement and Administration of Justice in 1967 was that youths be diverted from the formal system whenever possible to avoid a stigma that could produce more delinquency.21

In 1974, another blow to the image and public standing of juvenile as well as adult corrections came in the form of a sound-byte: “Nothing works.” The phrase can be traced indirectly to a study of the results of 231 separate evaluations of rehabilitation programs for adult and juvenile offenders, which one of the authors summarized in a brief article called “What Works? Questions and Answers About Prison Reform.”22 Unfortunately, although the larger study came to no such broad conclusion, the article was widely misquoted and misinterpreted as a declaration that nothing worked to rehabilitate offenders, including probation. The “nothing works” phrase took on a life of its own—it is still heard sometimes today—casting doubt on the value of treatment and the feasibility of rehabilitation.

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The juvenile justice system soon had to contend with formidable political challenges as well. Beginning in the 1980’s, rapid escalation in the volume and seriousness of youth crime, and a growing public perception that juvenile courts were “soft” in their responses, completely altered the atmosphere within which juvenile probation officers did their work. During the most intense period of escalation, from 1988 to 1994, juvenile arrests for violent crimes increased 62%.23 The public perception of an unchecked juvenile violent crime wave led to new transfer laws—that is, laws permitting or requiring removal of broad categories of juvenile offenders from the juvenile to the adult criminal justice system—in virtually every state.24 At the same time, the juvenile system was itself reshaped to resemble the adult one more closely. Legislatures all over the country took action to restrict juvenile judges’ discretionary powers, to relax confidentiality protections, and to “toughen up” juvenile court sanctions.25

All this did not mean that juvenile probation officers were being given less to do. Public confidence and public investment may have been lacking, but in the 1990’s juvenile probation was still the workhorse of the juvenile justice system, with over half of the nation’s total juvenile court caseload receiving probation as a disposition.26

With the turn of a new century, the juvenile probation profession may be finding a new footing.

Fortunately, a number of recent developments, both internal and external to the profession, have served to renew and reinvigorate juvenile probation in recent years.

One such development has been the emergence of a professional consensus in favor of the “balanced approach” to juvenile probation. First articulated in the late 1980’s, and now widely accepted among juvenile justice professionals, the balanced approach essentially proposes that juvenile probation respond to society’s competing demands (for safety, for punishment of wrongdoers, for redemption of young people gone astray, etc.) by sensibly balancing them: simultaneously pursuing the goals of protecting the community, holding offenders accountable for their acts, and helping them develop the skills and attitudes they need to succeed in becoming law-abiding and productive.27

The victims’ rights movement has helped here, as has the set of new-old ideas that go under the name “restorative justice,” by opening up what had been a closed, offender-focused rehabilitation process to victim and community input and participation. The values associated with the balanced approach, victims’ rights and restorative justice are now formally recognized in the purpose clauses of many states’ juvenile codes.

A stable consensus is developing regarding practical matters as well as philosophical ones. Research examining the effectiveness of juvenile probation has concluded that an overworked juvenile probation officer who sees a client only once a month has little ability either to monitor the client’s behavior or to exert much of an influence over his life28 —and the field is responding to these findings. Rejection of the officebound approach to supervision (“fortress probation”) is now widespread, for example. Many are beginning to embrace community-oriented policing as a useful model for probation. “Community justice” reformers are attempting to enlist the skills and support of ordinary citizens in a problem-solving, preventive approach to offending that involves the sharing of power and responsibility for social control with the local community.29 Localized, flexible approaches are valued in the community justice model over centralized, standardized ones—the aim being not simply to change the behavior and attitudes of the offender, but to recruit the community into the work of supporting and facilitating that change.30

For a century and a half, the juvenile probation profession has remained remarkably faithful to its origins.

To John Augustus and the others who pioneered the practice of juvenile probation, the world today would be all but unrecognizable. However, one thing they would recognize is the work of their successors. Despite all that has changed in a century and a half, juvenile probation still means close supervision, firm expectations, and tangible help—just the way it did in Augustus’s time. Techniques are more sophisticated, and knowledge has certainly advanced. However, it is still “the personal influence of the probation officer,” as one early observer of the profession wrote, that is “the essence of the probation system. The friendly side of the probation officer’s work is its important side.”31

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Key Alabama Court Cases Affecting The Rights of Juvenile Offenders

Exparte Anonymous 466 So. 2d 81 (Ala. 1984)

The Alabama Supreme Court held that the transfer of the minor defendant from the juvenile court to circuit court did not comply with the due process safeguards set forth in Rule 24 of the Alabama Rules of Juvenile Procedure. The Court noted that the Rule requires that the hearing shall commence with the court verifying that all parties are present and ready to proceed, and that in this case, there was no evidence on the record that this had been done. Rule 24 requires that the court explain the following to the parties:

  • The child’s rights during the proceedings
  • The substance of the petition
  • The specific allegations contained in the petition
  • The nature of the proceedings
  • The alternatives available to the court should the allegations in the petition be admitted or proven

W.M. v. State 607 So. 2d 1303 (Ala.Crim.App. 1992)

The Court, citing Kent v. United States, held that juvenile transfer hearings must measure up to the essentials of due process and fair treatment. The court further noted, “that a transfer hearing is not a hearing to adjudicate the guilt or innocence of the accused, but instead is a probable cause hearing, to determine whether the juvenile should be transferred out of juvenile court for prosecution as an adult.”

Ex parte Brown 540 So. 2d 740 (Ala. 1989)

The Alabama Supreme Court held that the standard that a juvenile be competent to stand trial is required in juvenile delinquency proceedings. The requirements of due process and fair treatment can be satisfied in juvenile delinquency proceedings only if the defendants are competent to stand trial.

Ex parte S.F.R. 598 So. 2d 1006 (Ala. 1992)

“Serious juvenile offenders”—it is not required as a matter of federal constitutional law under due process or equal protection to receive credit for time served in a county detention facility, even though adults are entitled to such credit.

M.S. v.State 625 So. 2d 1187 (Ala. Crim App. 1993)

The State is no longer required to prove, in adjudicating a juvenile delinquent, that the juvenile has the capacity to understand the wrongfulness of his or her conduct. In this case, the minor argued that he did not have the maturity and judgment necessary to be found guilty of reckless endangerment for shooting his BB gun at a group of people.

S.B.S. v. State 675 So. 2d 1340 (Ala. Crim. App. 1994)

In order to afford due process to the minor in revoking probation, the trial court should have furnished him with written findings as to the evidence it relied on and the reasons for revoking his probation.
The minimum requirements of due process when revoking probation include:

  • Written notice of the claimed violations of probation
  • Disclosure to the probationer of evidence against him
  • Opportunity to be heard in person and to present witnesses and documentary evidence
  • The right to confront and cross-examine adverse witnesses
  • A “neutral and detached” hearing body

Ex parte N.W. 748 So. 2d 190 (Ala.1999)

Due process requires, among other things, that the State give juvenile defendants written notice of charges against them. (In this case, harassment was not a lesser included offense included in the crime on menacing for which the juvenile was charged.)

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Key Supreme Court Cases Affecting The Rights of Juvenile Offenders

Kent v. United States (1966)

  • Transfer to adult court must consider due process and fair play
  • Child must be represented by an attorney
  • Attorney must have access to juvenile records of child

In re Gault (1967)

  • Juvenile must have notice of the charges, in writing, sufficiently particular to indicate offense(s) charged and conduct alleged and sufficiently in advance of the hearing to allow preparation
  • Juvenile must be notified of the right to counsel, either hired by them or appointed by the court
  • Juvenile has a right to confront the accuser(s)
  • Juvenile has the right to avoid self-incrimination
  • Juvenile has the right to cross-examine witnesses

In re Winship (1970)

  • Standard of proof of the juvenile proceedings is proof beyond a reasonable doubt.

McKeiver v. Pennsylvania (1971)

  • No right to trial by jury in juvenile proceedings

Breed v. Jones (1975)

  • Double jeopardy attaches with juvenile adjudication of delinquency

Swisher v. Brady (1978)

  • Double jeopardy does not attach with de novo hearing or supplemental findings by judge after trial before a master

Fare v. Michael C. (1979)

  • Juvenile’s request for probation officer rather than attorney during questioning does not trigger application of Miranda rule; police are not required to stop questioning of juvenile

Schall v. Martin (1984)

  • New York State statute permitting preventative pre-trial detention for juveniles is valid under the Due Process clauses of the Fourteenth Amendment

Thompson v. Oklahoma (1984)

  • Eight and Fourteenth Amendments prohibit the execution of a person who was under 16 years of age at the time of his or her offense

Roper v. Simmons (2005)

  • The Court concluded that the death penalty for minors is cruel and unusual punishment. The Court cited a “national consensus” against the practice, along with medical and social-science evidence that teenagers are too immature to be held accountable for their crimes to the same extent as adults.

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Alabama: A Historical Perspective

First Juvenile Courts

Alabama’s juvenile justice history is similar to that of the rest of the country. Alabama joined the juvenile court movement in 1911 when a juvenile court was established in Jefferson County by a local action of the Alabama Legislature. Four years later, the Legislature established a juvenile court in Mobile County. Eventually, individual local acts of the Legislature resulted in juvenile courts throughout the state.

County Courts

Originally, the juvenile courts and all other trial courts in Alabama were funded and administered locally. The juvenile courts were governed by whatever laws were specified in the legislation that created them. This resulted in significant differences in jurisdiction and procedures from county to county. One significant example is that the upper age limited for juvenile court jurisdiction was generally 15, but in at least one county, the upper age limit was 15 for males and 17 for females.

The juvenile court judges were county officials with varying degrees of power and legal qualifications. Most were the equivalent of state district court judges today, but many were probate judges for whom a law degree, much less a license to practice law, was not a requirement for their election. In some counties, juvenile probation officers were permitted to serve as juvenile court referees and guardians ad litem for children. Defense attorneys and prosecutors were relatively rare in juvenile court proceedings, and there was no prohibition against juvenile probation officers eliciting testimony. Therefore, it was not uncommon for a juvenile probation officer to assist the juvenile court judge or referee by examining witnesses and offering hearsay testimony for both sides of the case. This was, after all, the parens patriae era in which due process of law and other requirements of the Bill of Rights were not considered necessary in delinquency proceedings.

Juvenile Probation Officers

Juvenile probation officers were county employees, and a few counties did not even provide juvenile probation officers for their juvenile courts. The judges of those juvenile courts sometimes had to obtain investigations and other services from social workers in the “welfare department.” That was the Department of Pensions and Security until it was renamed the Department of Human Resources.

The Legislature created the state’s Department of Youth Services (DYS) by Act of Ala. 1973. p.1261. §3 (now §44-1-20, Ala. Code 1975). It was given responsibility for operating the state’s three training schools and providing other juvenile corrections services. The training schools were originally established as private institutions for delinquent children – one for white males at Roebuck (Birmingham) in Jefferson County, one for white females at Chalkville in Jefferson County, and one for black males and black females at Mt. Meigs in Montgomery County. Of course, all of these had been desegregated by 1975. After desegregation, the Roebuck and Mt. Meigs facilities were for delinquent males and the Chalkville facility was for all delinquent females. These institutions now represent only part of the DYS program. They are known as the Vacca, Mt. Meigs and Chalkville “campuses” of the DYS.

The DYS was also given some oversight responsibility for juvenile probation. It was mandated to establish juvenile probation officers for appointment by the juvenile courts. It was also given responsibility for administering a new state salary subsidy to the counties for juvenile probation officers. For each 15,000 of a county’s population, it was eligible for a subsidy of half the annual salary of a certified juvenile probation officer. This incentive encouraged some counties to provide better support for their juvenile courts, but it never achieved equitable staffing. Some counties failed, refused, or were financially unable to take advantage of all the salary subsidies to which they were eligible. Other counties funded more juvenile probation officers than would be subsidized under the population formula.

Judicial Reforms

The Alabama Legislature reformed the judicial system and created uniform juvenile laws through Act 1205, Acts of Ala. 1975, p. 2384, which became effective in January 1977.

An amendment to the Judicial Article of the Constitution of Alabama of 1901 and Acts of the Legislature resulted in the creation of the Alabama Unified Judicial System. The juvenile courts and all other county trial courts became state district and circuit courts with uniform jurisdictions and powers. The probate courts and municipal courts remained county and municipal courts respectively, but they were included in the Unified Judicial System for limited purposes to make all state and local courts a unified judicial branch of state government.

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In this chapter, the following topics will be
  • how delinquency cases are processed through the court system
  • juvenile probation’s role in case processing
  • standards applicable to juvenile justice case processing

Juvenile probation officers play a crucial role at virtually every delinquency case processing stage.

A thorough understanding of how delinquency cases are processed through the juvenile justice system from referral to case closure—is essential to good juvenile probation practice. Annually, about 1.5 million delinquency cases are handled by the nation’s juvenile courts. In Alabama, approximately 41 thousand delinquency cases are handled annually by juvenile courts. Virtually every one of the juveniles involved in these cases has contact with juvenile probation officers at some point.1 Juvenile probation officers acting as juvenile intake officers pursuant to Rule 8, Alabama Rules of Juvenile Procedure, screen most of them initially to determine how they should be processed, and make detention decisions on some of them. Juvenile Probation Officers also prepare investigation reports on most of the cases, provide supervision, and deliver aftercare services to many of the clients released from institutions. This chapter provides an overview of delinquency case processing, and briefly describes the critical decisions that must be made at each stage. Subsequent chapters provide more in-depth information on each of these stages.

Alabama Code 1975

Cases initiated by filing of petitions by

intake officers.

Cases before the court shall be initiated by the filing of a petition by the intake officer who shall receive verified complaints and proceed thereon pursuant to rules of procedure adopted by the Supreme Court [Section 12- 15-50, Ala. Code 1975].

I n determining whether to “petition” juvenile cases—that is, whether to process them formally—intake officers must ask the following basic question:

From a review of complaints and the evidence, is it clear that complaints against juveniles are legally sufficient? If not, petitions cannot be filed.

If decisions are made neither to petition nor informally adjust a complaint, intake officers may still refer juveniles to the Department of Human Resources and other private or public agencies in their communities if their assistance appears to be needed or desirable [Section 12-15-7(a)(3) Ala. Code, 1975]. These referrals may even take the forms of simple notifications to complainants, juveniles, or their parents of the existence of agencies, which may be of help. These agencies may be faith-based, as well as those agencies such as are listed in the resource guides developed by county children’s policy councils. Copies of these guides should be kept available in juvenile probation offices.

At one time, most cases referred to juvenile court intake officers were handled informally, but the proportion has fallen in recent years. In 1998, 43% of all cases referred were handled without petitions and without judicial involvement.2 Often, in informally processed cases, juveniles are simply placed on “informal” or “voluntary” probation for a period of time, after the successful completion of which the period of supervision is terminated and no court records are created or kept.

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Timeliness is an important consideration in making

intake decisions.

Intake officers must often decide whether to detain

or release as well.

Alabama Code 1975

Filing of petition and conduct of hearing as to

necessity for continuation of detention or

shelter care.

When a child is not released from detention or shelter care as provided in Section 12-15-58, a petition shall be filed and a hearing held within 72 hours, Saturdays, Sundays and holidays included, to determine whether continued detention or shelter care is required [Section 12-15-60(a), Ala. Code 1975].

Notice of the detention or shelter care or other care hearing, either oral or written, stating the time, place and purpose of the hearing and the right to counsel shall be given to the parent, guardian or custodian if they can be found and to the child if such child is over 12 years of age or if delinquency is alleged. In every case of a dependent child, the Department of Human Resources shall be notified [Section 12-15-60(b), Ala. Code 1975].

At the commencement of the detention or shelter or other care hearing, the court shall advise the parties of the right to counsel and shall appoint counsel as required. The parties shall be informed of the child's right to remain silent with respect to any allegation of delinquency. They shall also be informed of the contents of the petition and shall, except as provided herein, be given an opportunity to admit or deny the allegations of the petition. Prior to the acceptance of an admission of the allegations of the petition, the court shall (1) verify if the child was previously convicted or adjudicated a youthful offender pursuant to Section 12-15-34(h) or (2) rule on any motion of the prosecutor requesting the court to transfer the child for criminal prosecution. The juvenile court shall not accept a plea of guilt or an admission to the allegations of the petition in any case in which the child will be transferred for prosecution as an adult, either by grant of the prosecutor's motion to transfer or pursuant to Section 12-15-34(h) and Section 12-15-60(c), Ala. Code 1975}.

All relevant and material evidence helpful in determining the need for detention or shelter care may be admitted by the court even though not competent in a hearing on the petition [Section 12-15-60(d), Ala. Code 1975].

If the child is not released and no parent, guardian or other custodian has been notified and none appeared or waived appearance at the hearing, upon the filing of an affidavit stating these facts, the court shall rehear the matter within 24 hours, Saturdays, Sundays, and holidays included [Section 12-15-60(e), Ala. Code 1975].

Authority and criteria for continuation of
detention or shelter care of children
taken into custody.

Unless otherwise ordered by the court pursuant to the provisions of this chapter, a child lawfully taken into custody as an allegedly dependent or delinquent child or a child in need of supervision shall immediately be released, upon the ascertainment of the necessary facts, to the care, custody and control of such child's parent, guardian, custodian or other suitable person able and willing to provide supervision and care for such child, except in situations where [12-15-59(a), Ala. Code 1975]:

  1. The child has no parent, guardian, custodian or other suitable person able and willing to provide supervision and care for such child;
  2. The release of the child would present a clear and substantial threat of a serious nature to the person or property of others where the child is alleged to be delinquent;
  3. The release of such child would present a serious threat of substantial harm to such child; or
  4. The child has a history of failing to appear for hearings before the court.

The criteria for continuing the child in detention or shelter or other care as set forth in subsection (a) of this section shall govern the decisions of all persons involved in determining whether the continued detention or shelter care is warranted pending court disposition and such criteria shall be supported by clear and convincing evidence in support of the decision not to release the child [12-15-59(b), Ala. Code 1975].

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A petition may be signed by any person who has knowledge of the facts alleged or is informed of them and believes that they are true [Section 12-15-52(a), Ala. Code 197].

A petition shall be entitled "In the matter of _____, a child" and shall be verified by the person who signs it [Section 12-15-52(b), Ala. Code 1975].

The petition shall set forth with specificity:

The facts which bring the child within the jurisdiction of the court, the facts constituting the dependency, delinquency or need of supervision and that the child is in need of supervision, treatment, rehabilitation, care or the protection of the state, as the case may be [Section 12-15-52(c)(1), Ala. Code 1975];

The name, age and residence address, if any, of the child on whose behalf the petition is brought [Section 12-15-52(c)(2), Ala. Code 1975];

The names and residence addresses, if known to the petitioner, of the parents, guardian or custodian of the child. If no parent, guardian or custodian resides or can be found within the state or if their respective places of residence are unknown, the name of any known adult relative residing within the district or, if there be none, the known adult relative residing nearest to the location of the court [Section 12-15-52(c)(3), Ala. Code 1975]; and

The place of the child's detention and the time he was taken into custody, if the child in custody is delinquent or in need of supervision [Section 12-15-52(c)(4), Ala. Code 1975].

When any of the facts required by subsection (c) of this section are not known, except the facts required by subdivision (4) of subsection (c) of this section, the petition shall so state [Section 12-15-52(d), Ala. Code 1975].

Hearings Generally

Hearings under this chapter shall be conducted by the court without a jury and separate from other proceedings. The general public shall be excluded from delinquency, in need of supervision, or dependency hearings and only the parties, their counsel, witnesses, and other persons requested by a party shall be admitted. Other persons as the court finds to have a proper interest in the case or in the work of the court may be admitted by the court on condition that the persons refrain from divulging any information which would identify the child or family involved. If the court finds that it is in the best interest of the child, the child may be temporarily excluded from the hearings, except while allegations of delinquency or in need of supervision are being heard. Relatives, pre-adoptive parents, or foster parents who have been approved by the Department of Human Resources providing care to a child shall be given notice and an opportunity to be heard in any hearing to be held with respect to a child in their care, except that no such person shall be made a party to the case by virtue solely of such notice and opportunity to be heard [Section 12-15-65(a), Ala. Code 1975].

Multiple Needs Child Determination

After the filing of a petition when the petition alleges or evidence reveals to the court that a child may be a multiple needs child, and that previous plans developed by an agency, or agencies, have not met the needs of the child, the court, on its own motion or motion of a party or party's parent or guardian or upon motion of the Department of Youth Services, a school system, the Department of Human Resources, the Department of Public Health, the Department of Mental Health and Mental Retardation, or juvenile court probation services, may refer the child to the county children's services facilitation team for evaluation and review. This evaluation may occur prior to any hearing, or the court may suspend proceedings during the hearing or prior to disposition to review the findings and recommendations of the county children's services facilitation team [Section 12-15-65(b), Ala. Code 1975].

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Advisement of Rights

The parties shall be advised of their rights under law in their first appearance at intake and before the court. They shall be informed of the specific allegations in the petition and given an opportunity to admit or deny the allegations [Section 12-15-65(c), Ala. Code 1975].

Hearing Procedures

If the allegations are denied, the court shall proceed to hear evidence on the petition. The court shall record its findings on whether or not the child is a dependent child or, if the petition alleges delinquency or in need of supervision, as to whether or not the acts ascribed to the child were committed by the child. If the court finds that the allegations in the petition have not been established, it shall dismiss the petition and order the child discharged from any detention or temporary care, theretofore ordered in the proceedings [Section 12-15- 65(d, Ala. Code 1975].

If the court finds on proof beyond a reasonable doubt, based upon competent, material, and relevant evidence, that a child committed the acts by reason of which the child is alleged to be delinquent or in need of supervision it may proceed immediately to hear evidence as to whether the child is in need of care or rehabilitation and to file its findings thereon. In the absence of evidence to the contrary, evidence of the commission of an act which constitutes a felony is sufficient to sustain a finding that the child is in need of care or rehabilitation. If the court finds that the child is not in need of care or rehabilitation, it shall dismiss the proceedings and discharge the child from any detention or other temporary care theretofore ordered [Section 12-15-65(e), Ala. Code 1975].

If the court finds from clear and convincing evidence, competent, material, and relevant in nature, that the child is dependent and in need of care or supervision or from clear and convincing evidence, competent, relevant, and material in nature, that the child is in need of care or rehabilitation as a delinquent child or a child in need of supervision, or from clear and convincing evidence, competent, relevant, and material in nature that parental rights should be terminated, the court may proceed immediately, in the absence of objection showing good cause or at a postponed hearing, to make proper disposition of the case [Section 12-15-65(f), Ala. Code 1975]

If the court enters an order removing a child from his or her home or continuing a child in a placement outside of his or her home pursuant to this title, the order shall contain as specific findings, if warranted by the evidence, all of the following [Section 12-15-65(g), Ala. Code 1975]:

(1) That continuing the placement of a child in his or her home would be contrary to the best interests of the child.

(2) That reasonable efforts have been made to prevent or eliminate the need for removal of the child from his or her home, or that an emergency situation exists which requires the immediate temporary removal of the child from his or her home and that it is reasonable not to make efforts to prevent removal of the child from his or her home due to the emergency situation.

(3) That reasonable efforts have been made or will be made to reunite the child and his or her family, or that efforts to reunite the child and his or her family have failed.

In disposition hearings all relevant and material evidence helpful in determining the questions presented, including oral and written reports, may be received by the court and may be relied upon to the extent of its probative value, even though not competent in a hearing on the petition. The parties or their counsel shall be afforded an opportunity to examine and controvert written reports so received and to cross-examine individuals making reports [Section 12-15-65(h), Ala. Code 1975].

Child Hearsay Exception

A statement made by a child under the age of 12 describing any act of sexual conduct performed with or on the child by another, not otherwise admissible by statute or court rule, is admissible in all dependency cases brought by the State of Alabama acting by and through a local department of human resources if [Section 12-15-65(i), Ala. Code 1975]:

(1) The statement was made to a social worker, child sex abuse therapist or counselor, licensed psychologist, physician, or school or kindergarten teacher or instructor; and

Page 20                                                       March 2007             

(2) The court finds that the time, content, and circumstances of the statement provide sufficient indicia of reliability. In making its determination the court may consider the physical and mental age and maturity of the child, the nature and duration of the abuse or offense, the relationship of the child to the offender, and any other factor deemed appropriate.

A statement may not be admitted under this section unless the proponent of the statement makes known to the adverse party the proponent's intention to offer the statement and the particulars of the statement sufficiently in advance of the proceedings to provide the adverse party with a fair opportunity to rebut the statement. This child hearsay exception applies to all hearings involving dependency including, but not limited to, the 72-hour hearing, the dependency hearing, and the disposition hearing.

This exception contained herein shall not apply to a criminal proceeding or charge [Section 12-15-65(j), Ala. Code 1975].


On its own motion or that of a party, the court may continue the disposition hearing under this section for a reasonable period to receive reports and other evidence bearing on the disposition or need for care or rehabilitation. In this event, the court shall make an appropriate order for detention or temporary care for the child, or the child's release for detention or temporary care during the period of the continuance, subject to such conditions as the court may impose [Section 12-15-65(k), Ala. Code 1975].

Withdrawal from School

A proceeding to allow a child to withdraw from school shall be commenced by petition. The petition shall be granted only upon a showing of good cause for withdrawal. No child shall be deemed incorrigible, in need of supervision, or unamenable to treatment based on the filing of the petition [Section 12-15-65(l), Ala. Code 1975].

In the case of any child 14 years of age or older, where the court finds that the school officials have made a diligent effort to meet the child's educational needs and, after study, the court further finds that the child is not able to benefit appreciably from further schooling, the court may excuse the child from further compliance with any legal requirement of compulsory school attendance and authorize the child, notwithstanding the provisions of any other law, to be employed in any occupation which is not legally declared hazardous for children under the age of 18 [Section 12-15-65(l), Ala. Code 1975].


As used in this chapter, "reasonable efforts" refers to efforts made to preserve and reunify families prior to the placement of a child in foster care, to prevent or eliminate the need for removing the child from the child's home, and to make it possible for a child to return safely to the child's home. In determining the reasonable efforts to be made with respect to a child, and in making such reasonable efforts, the child's health and safety shall be the paramount concern. If continuation of reasonable efforts is determined to be inconsistent with the permanency plan for the child, reasonable efforts shall be made to place the child and to complete whatever steps are necessary to finalize the permanent placement of the child. Reasonable efforts shall not be required to be made where the parental rights to a sibling have been involuntarily terminated or where a court of competent jurisdiction has determined that a parent has done any of the following [Section 12-15-65(m), Ala. Code 1975]:

  1. Subjected the child to an aggravated circumstance, including, but not limited to, abandonment, torture, chronic abuse, substance abuse, or sexual abuse.
  2. Committed murder or voluntary manslaughter of another child of such parent.
  3. Aided or abetted, attempted, conspired, or solicited to commit murder or voluntary manslaughter of another child of such parent.
Page 21                                                       March 2007             

(4) Committed a felony assault which resulted in the serious bodily injury to the child or another child of such parent. The term "serious bodily injury" means bodily injury which involves substantial risk of death, extreme physical pain, protracted and obvious disfigurement, or protracted loss or impairment of the function of a bodily member, organ, or mental faculty.

Nothing in the exceptions to making reasonable efforts listed in this subsection shall be interpreted to require the reunification of a child with a stepparent or paramour of a parent under similar circumstances.

If reasonable efforts are not made with respect to a child as a result of a determination made by a court of competent jurisdiction in situations as described above, a permanency hearing, as provided in Section 12-15-62, shall be held for the child within 30 days after the determination. Reasonable efforts shall be made to place the child and to complete whatever steps are necessary to finalize the permanent placement of the child. Reasonable efforts to place a child for adoption or with a legal guardian or custodian may be made concurrently with other reasonable efforts [Section 12-15-65(n), Ala. Code 1975].

Transfer of cases from juvenile court to
criminal court.

The prosecutor may, before a hearing on the petition on its merits and following consultation with probation services, file a motion requesting the court to transfer the child for criminal prosecution, if the child was 14 or more years of age at the time of the conduct charged and is alleged to have committed an act which would constitute a crime if committed by an adult [Section 12- 15-34(a), Ala. Code 1975].

The court shall conduct a hearing on all motions for the purpose of determining whether it is in the best interest of the child or the public to grant the motion. If the court finds and there are no reasonable grounds to believe the child is committable to an institution or agency for the mentally retarded or mentally ill, it shall order the case transferred for criminal prosecution [Section 12-15-34(b), Ala. Code 1975].

When there are grounds to believe that the child is committable to an institution or agency for the mentally retarded or mentally ill, the court shall proceed pursuant to Section 12-15-70 and Section 12-15-34(c), Ala. Code 1975.

Evidence of the following and other relevant factors shall be considered in determining whether the motion shall be granted [Section 12-15-34(d), Ala. Code 1975]:

  1. The nature of the present alleged offense.
  2. The extent and nature of the prior delinquency record of the child.
  3. The nature of past treatment efforts and the nature of the response of the child to the efforts.
  4. Demeanor.
  5. The extent and nature of the physical and mental maturity of the child.
  6. The interests of the community and of the child requiring that the child be placed under legal restraint or discipline.

Prior to a hearing on the motion by the prosecutor, a study and report to the court, in writing, relevant to the factors listed in subsection (d) of this section shall be made by probation services [Section 12-15-34(e), Ala. Code 1975].

When a child is transferred for criminal prosecution, the court shall set forth in writing its reasons for granting the motion, which shall include a finding of probable cause for believing that the allegations are true and correct [Section 12-15-34(f), Ala. Code 1975].

The finding of probable cause by the juvenile court shall preclude the necessity for a preliminary hearing subsequent to the transfer of the case for criminal prosecution, and the court having jurisdiction of the offense or offenses charged may exercise any authority over the case and the child, subsequent to the transfer, which is otherwise applicable to cases involving adult offenders under provisions of laws or rules of procedure adopted by the Supreme Court [Section 12- 15-34(g), Ala. Code 1975].

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A child whose case is transferred for criminal prosecution shall not be granted youthful offender status and, if convicted, shall be sentenced as an adult if the act which if committed by an adult would constitute any of the following [Section 12-15-34(h), Ala. Code 1975]:

  1. A capital offense.
  2. A Class A felony.
  3. A felony which has as an element the use of a deadly weapon.
  4. A felony which has as an element the causing of death or serious physical injury.
  5. A felony which has as an element the use of a dangerous instrument against any person who is:
    a. A law enforcement officer or official.
    b. A correctional officer or official.
    c. A parole or probation officer or official.
    d. A juvenile court probation officer or official.
    e. A district attorney or other prosecuting officer or official.
    f. A judge or judicial official.
    g. A court officer or official.
    h. A person who is a grand juror, juror, or witness in any legal proceeding of whatever nature when the offense stems from, is caused by, or is related to the role of the person as a juror, grand juror, or witness.
    i. A teacher, principal, or employee of the public education system of Alabama.
  6. Trafficking in drugs in violation of Section 13A-12-231.

A child who is transferred to criminal court for criminal prosecution shall be tried as an adult for the offense charged and all lesser included offenses of the offense charged [Section 12-15-34(i), Ala. Code 1975].

A conviction or adjudication as a youthful offender following the transfer of a child for criminal prosecution as provided in this section shall terminate the jurisdiction of the juvenile court over that child with respect to any future criminal acts, offenses, or violations of any nature and with respect to any pending allegations of delinquency which have not been disposed of by the juvenile court at the time of the criminal conviction.

Any pending or future criminal acts committed by the child shall be prosecuted as other criminal charges are prosecuted; however, the juvenile court shall exercise jurisdiction over the child for the purpose of obtaining verification of a previous conviction or adjudication as a youthful offender after being transferred for prosecution as an adult, and for the purpose of authorizing release pending trial on bond or as otherwise provided by law. Termination of the juvenile court's jurisdiction over the child with respect to future criminal charges and pending allegations of delinquency, as provided herein, shall not affect the juvenile court's jurisdiction over the child with respect to any other matter provided in this chapter, specifically including any prior allegations of delinquency which, at the time of the criminal conviction, has been disposed of by the juvenile court either through informal adjustment, consent decree, or adjudication. The juvenile court is specifically authorized, to the extent practicable, to continue exercising its jurisdiction over the child with respect to such previously disposed delinquency cases after the termination of its jurisdiction with respect to other criminal charges [Section 12-15-34(j), Ala. Code 1975].

.Probation supervision is the most common disposition for juveniles adjudicated delinquent.

Slightly more than one-half of all adjudicated delinquency cases are placed on probation supervision in any given year. In 1998, probation was the most severe disposition ordered in 58% of all adjudicated delinquency cases.3 In 2006, probation was the most severe disposition ordered in 65% of all adjudicated delinquency cases in Alabama. However, most juvenile probation dispositions are multifaceted. For example, most cases placed on probation receive other dispositions or conditions of probation including drug testing and counseling, weekend confinement, day reporting, community service, or restitution.4

Page 23                                                       March 2007             

During the period of probation supervision, juveniles remain in their communities and can continue normal activities (e.g., live at home, attend school, work, etc.). In exchange for this freedom, probationers are required to comply with certain conditions, with compliance being monitored by juvenile probation offices. Some of these conditions are of the passive (“thou shalt not”) type.

As is described more fully in the Supervision Chapter, however, good juvenile probation supervision emphasizes “active” probation conditions- activities meant to hold juveniles accountable and address problem areas while maintaining community safety. Failure to comply with conditions of juvenile probation may result in a range of consequences, including the imposition of additional probation conditions, harsher sanctions of various kinds, or the outright revocation of probation. If probation is revoked, the court may order an entirely new disposition, which may include placement in a residential facility.

An alternative approach, and one recommended by the American Probation and Parole Association, is for juvenile probation departments to develop workload rather than caseload standards—that is, standards that distinguish between types of cases that call for differing amounts of time and effort.

For example, a high-intensity case might require a certain number of hours per month, while a mediumintensity case may require less, and a minimal-supervision case even less. Using time estimates for each level of supervision—along with estimates, based on case management assessments, of the number of high, medium, and low supervision cases that must be handled in a given period of time—it is possible for a probation office to calculate the maximum caseload that one juvenile officer can accommodate in the work hours available.

Juvenile probation officers’ role continues even after juveniles are “sent away.” At disposition, judges may order juveniles committed to residential facilities. These facilities may be state-administered or privately operated, secure or nonsecure. In any given year, about one-fourth of adjudicated delinquency cases receive residential placement dispositions. Juvenile probation officers’ involvement with adjudicated delinquents does not end with a residential commitment, however. Juvenile probation offices in many jurisdictions are also responsible for “aftercare,” which is the process of monitoring juveniles’ rehabilitative progress while in placement, participating in prerelease planning and, following juveniles’ release

and reintegration into their communities, monitoring their compliance with the parole-like conditions that are generally imposed. This also includes involvement with after care hearings upon release from the Department of Youth Services to include the recommendations from the facility in the case plan/order.


Juvenile delinquency cases should terminate with case closing reports. Effective delinquency case processing means processing each individual case to some identifiable and measurable end. Just as there is a definitive starting point at intake, there should also be a definitive ending point—a “case closing.”

Cases are most often closed upon successful completion of the terms of the disposition. At that time, juvenile probation officers should prepare a case closing report. Reports should indicate (1) the extent to which specific case plan objectives were met; (2) whether juveniles violated conditions of probation or reoffended while on probation; (3) any sanctions imposed; (4) any treatment received; (5) any skills developed or improved; (6) any restitution paid; and (7) any community service performed.

Case Processing Time Limits

All of the major standard-setting groups set maximum time limits for the processing of delinquency cases in keeping with principles of efficiency and due process. Alabama has established the following time limits for juvenile cases:

  • Once authorization for detention or shelter care has been established, a hearing shall be held within 72 hours, Saturday, Sundays and legal holidays included. Section 12-15-60(a), Ala. Code 1975). This 72-hour hearing encompasses delinquency detention determinations and CHINS shelter care determinations.
  • If a child is not detained, filings of petitions shall occur within 14 days of receipt of complaints. Rule 12(D), ARJP. Note: Failure to file timely petitions terminates the petition process and the petitioners must then file new complaints within the relevant Statute of Limitations.
  • All adjudicatory hearings shall be scheduled for the earliest practicable date with priority given those children in detention or shelter care facility. Rule 23(A), ARJP
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Case Processing
Chapter Summary
• Setting the Hearings

Generally, all adjudicatory hearings shall be scheduled for the “earliest practicable date” with priority given to those children in shelter care facilities. [Rule 23(A), ARJP]. If each party waives, in writing or on the record at the hearing, his or her right to notice of the hearing, it may be held before the scheduled date. [Rule 23(B), ARJP]

• Continuance Policies

“Continuances shall be granted by the court only upon a showing of good cause and only for so long as it is necessary, taking into account not only the request or consent of the prosecutor or of the child, but also the interest of the public in the prompt disposition of cases and whether the child is being detained.” [Section 12-15-68, Ala. Code 1975]

• Adjudicatory Hearings

The following is a short synopsis of what is required in juvenile court hearings, including adjudicatory hearings:

  1. Hearings are conducted without juries;
  2. They are separate from other proceedings;
  3. The general public is excluded, and, if courts find that it is in the best interests of children, children may be excluded temporarily;
  4. Courts shall commence the hearings by ascertaining if all necessary parties are present and ready to proceed, and should so note on the records;
  5. The parties must be advised of their rights and must be informed as to the allegations in the petition and given an opportunity to admit or deny the allegations;
  6. If all parties are represented by counsel, courts shall inquire whether counsel has explained to them the substance of the petitions; the specific allegations contained in the petitions; the nature of the proceedings; the rights of the parties during the proceedings and the alternatives available to the courts should the allegations to the petitions be admitted or proven.

If counsel has explained these things to parties, courts must note this fact on the records. If parties have counsel but counsel has not explained the above, or if parties are not represented by counsel, courts shall explain the above things to these parties.

7. If the allegations in petitions are denied, courts shall proceed to hear evidence on the petitions. The courts shall record their findings on whether or not the children are dependent children. Courts shall dismiss petitions if the courts find the allegations in the petitions have not been established.

8. Courts receive relevant, material, and competent evidence, and from this evidence, if the courts find from clear and convincing evidence that children are dependent or in need of care or supervision or that parental rights should be terminated, courts may proceed with the dispositional phase of the cases immediately in the absence of objection showing good cause or at a postponed hearings. In all cases seeking termination of parental rights, the oral and written evidence presented must show that less drastic measures than permanent removal form the parents have been unavailing and must show the plan of DHR [Sections 12-15-65(a),(c),(d) and(f), Ala. Code 1975; Rules 23(A) and (B), ARJP].

At any hearings other than to transfer to other courts, the court may handle all matters at one time or in phases. Courts must direct that testimony of witnesses be taken if allegations of the petitions are denied. Further, “(t)he conduct of the hearing shall be consistent with legal and due process requirements and shall proceed generally in a manner similar to a trial of a civil action before the court sitting without a jury, except that the child may not be compelled to be a witness.” [Rule 25(A), ARJP].

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• Multiple Needs Child Determinations

After petitions are filed, if courts find from petitions or from evidence that children may be “multiple needs children,” courts, on their own motions, on motions of parties or their parents or guardians, or on motions of specified agencies, may refer the children to county children’s services facilitation teams for evaluation and review. These evaluations may occur prior to any hearings, or courts may suspend proceedings during the hearings or prior to dispositions to review the findings or recommendations of the teams. {Sections 12-15- 1(19); 12-15-65(b); 12-15-71(h) (1), Ala. Code 1975}. Note: Provisions for the creation and duties of county children’s services facilitation terms may be found in Section 12-15-172, Ala. Code 1975.

County children’s service facilitation teams must present to courts preliminary plans of services addressing the needs of children and the respective responsibilities of agencies composing the teams within 21 days of receiving referrals from the courts. [Section 12-15-71(h)(1), Ala. Code 1975].

County teams must meet within seven days of the cases being referred by courts or upon notices from members that there are needs for the teams to develop service plans. [Section 12-15-172(d), Ala. Code 1975].

Upon receiving preliminary recommendations by county teams, courts may adjudge children as “multiple needs children” and unless the courts find it is not in the best interests of the children, order the use of any dispositional alternatives or services available for children [Section 12-15-71(h)(1), Ala. Code 1975].

• Findings and Orders

At the close of adjudicatory hearings, courts must make one of the following findings in docket entries or written orders:

“(1) That the facts alleged in the petition are true and the child is dependent, delinquent, or in need of supervision, and is in need of care or rehabilitation; or

“(2) That the facts alleged in the petition are not proved or that the child is not in need of care or rehabilitation, in which event the petition shall be dismissed.” [Rule 25(A), ARJP]

• Predisposition Studies

After petitions have been filed, courts may direct that predisposition studies and reports be made by DHR concerning the children, their families, their environment, and other matters relevant to the need for treatment and disposition of cases [Section 12-15- 69, Ala. Code 1975].

• Dispositional Hearings

At these hearings, courts decide what is in the best interests of dependent children. Courts may handle all matters at one time or in phases. All relevant and material evidence helpful in determining the questions presented, including oral and written reports, may be received by the courts and may be relied upon to the extent of its probative value, even though not competent in hearings on petitions. [Section 12-15- 65(h), Ala. Code 1975, and Rule 25(A), ARJP].

• Possible Dispositions for Delinquent Children or Children In Need of Supervision

Courts may choose from one of the following options to protect the welfare of children:

  1. See if children can remain with the children’s parents, guardians, or other custodians, subject to certain conditions and limitations prescribed by courts;
  2. Place the children on probation under conditions and limitations as the courts may prescribe.

“Probation” is defined as The legal status created by court order following an adjudication of delinquency or in need of supervision whereby a child is permitted to remain in a community subject to supervision and return to court for violation of probation at any time during the period of probation.” [12-15-1(20), Ala. Code 1975].

3. Transfer legal custody to the DYS, with or without commitment orders to specific institutions.

4. In the cases of CHINS, transfer legal custody to other DYS or the DHR;
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(5) Transfer legal custody to local public or private agencies, organizations or facilities willing and able to assume the education, care, and maintenance of children and which are licensed or otherwise authorized by law to receive and provide care for children.

(6) Transfer legal custody to relatives or other individuals who, after studies by juvenile probation officers, are found by courts to be qualified to receive and care for children;

(7) Make any other orders as the courts deem to be for the welfare and best interests of the children, including but not limited to, drug screens, assessments of fines not to exceed $250; and restitution against the parents, guardians, or children as the courts deem appropriate.

(8) Direct the parents or custodians of the children to perform such reasonable acts as are deemed necessary to promote the best interests of the children [Section 12-15-71(c), Ala. Code 1975].

“Legal custody”: is defined as [a] legal status created by court order which vests in a custodian the right to have physical custody of the child and to determine where and with whom the child shall live within the state and the right and duty to protect, train, and discipline the child and to provide the child with food, shelter, clothing, education, and ordinary medical care, all subject to the powers, rights, duties, and responsibilities of the guardian of the person of the child and subject to any residual parental rights and responsibilities. An individual granted legal custody shall exercise the rights and responsibilities personally unless otherwise authorized by the juvenile court. [12-15- 1(17), Ala. Code 1975].

If legal custody of children is vested in someone other than their parents, after notice and hearings, courts may order that the parents or other legally obligated persons pay reasonable sums that will cover, in whole or in part, the support and treatment of the children [Section 12-15-9, Ala. Code 1975].

In addition, after due notice and hearings, courts may order the parents or other legally obligated persons to pay all or part of the court costs, attorney fees, and expenses with respect to the examination, treatment, care or support of the children incurred in carrying out the provisions of this chapter [Section 12- 15-11, Ala. Code 1975].

In all cases where children have been adjudicated delinquent and granted probation, as condition of probation, courts may order the parents or legal guardians of the children to assist the court in ensuring that the children complies with the terms of their probation. Parents who fail to assist in this matter may be held in criminal contempt and may be fined in an amount not to exceed $300 and imprisonment not exceeding 30 days, or both [Section 12-15-11.1, Ala. Code 1975].

• Transfers to Adult Court

Before hearings on the merits and following consultation with juvenile probation officers, prosecutors may file motions requesting the courts to transfer the children for criminal prosecution. Such motions must be addressed by the court prior to adjudicatory hearings.

• Age of Children

Motions to transfer to adult court may be filed if the children were 14 years of age or older at the time of conduct charged and alleged to have committed acts which would constitute crimes if committed by adults.

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• Hearings on Motions

Hearings must be conducted by courts for the purposes of determining whether it is in best interests of children or the public to grant motions unless courts find that there are reasonable grounds to believe the children are committable to institutions or agencies for the mentally retarded or mentally ill. If the latter is the case, courts shall proceed pursuant to Section 12-15-70, Ala. Code 1975.

• Mandatory Factors

Evidence of the following shall be considered by courts in determining whether to grant the motions:

  1. the nature of the present alleged offenses;
  2. the extent and nature of the prior delinquency records of the children;
  3. the nature of past treatment efforts and the nature of the response of the children to the efforts;
  4. demeanor;
  5. the extent and nature of the physical and mental maturity of the children;
  6. The interests of the community and of the children requiring that the children be placed under legal restraint or discipline.

Juvenile Justice Practice Standards

During the 1970’s and 1980’s, partly in response to U.S. Supreme Court decisions challenging traditional juvenile justice practices various national organizations wrote and published standards for the administration of juvenile justice in the United States. Although there is too much legal and practice variation for any one set of standards to meet the needs of every jurisdiction in every state, these standards nevertheless reflect the best attempts of knowledgeable professionals to lay out a basic framework for good practice. As such, they provide a frame of reference from which juvenile probation officers and their departments can examine their own decision-making, policies, and practices.

The principal national standards include:
  • Report of the National Advisory Committee for Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention. Standards for the Administration of Juvenile Justice (July, 1980).
  • Institute of Juvenile Administration/American Bar Association. Juvenile Justice Standards Series (1980).
  • The Law Enforcement Agency Accreditation Program, The Commission on Accreditation for Law Enforcement Agencies. Standards for Law Enforcement Agencies (January, 1989).
  • Commission on Accreditation for Corrections. Manual of Standards for Juvenile Probation and Aftercare Services, 2nd ed. (1983).
  • National District Attorney’s Association. Prosecution Standard 19.2 Juvenile Delinquency (1989).
  • Department of Health Education and Welfare. Intake Screening Guidelines (1975).
  • National Advisory Committee on Criminal Justice Standards and Goals. Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, Report of the Task Force on Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (1976).
  • United States Department of Justice. President’s Task Force on Victims of Crime (1982).
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1Torbert, P. (1996), “Juvenile Probation: The Workhorse of the Juvenile Justice System.” OJJDP Juvenile Justice Bulletin. Washington, DC: Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention.
2 Puzzanchera, supra, n.3.
3 Ibid.
4 Scahill, M. (2000). Juvenile Delinquency Probation Caseloads,1988- 1997. Washington, DC: Office of Juvenile justice and Delinquency Preventions

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In this chapter , the following topics will be
  • the intake decision-making process
  • intake assessments, interviews, and
  • factors that should influence intake
  • ways to ensure that intake decisions are
    fair and rational

Intake assessment and decision-making are among juvenile probation officers’ most important responsibilities.

As noted in the previous chapter, juvenile probation officers who are designated “intake officers” pursuant to Rule 8, Alabama Rules of Juvenile Procedure, make initial “intake” decisions regarding how to handle complaints against juveniles pursuant to Rule 12, Alabama Rules of Juvenile Procedure. These persons also determine whether the cases are in the jurisdiction of the juvenile courts and whether the best interests of the juveniles or the public require petitions to be filed. From this initial “screening” process, juvenile probation officers determine if informal adjustment is necessary or whether petitions should be filed.
The scope of intake is limited to specific functions in juvenile proceedings. The first is, by definition, primary contact with complainants in juvenile proceedings. The second and most significant is the initiation of original juvenile cases, i.e., cases in which children are alleged to be delinquent, dependent, or in need of supervision. The third is initiation of cases for revocation of probation, aftercare, and protective supervision in existing juvenile cases.
Designation of Juvenile Court Intake Officers
Intake in Alabama juvenile courts is the domain of designated “intake officers” who may or may not be juvenile probation officers. By definition, the intake office of a juvenile court may be an “office in the probation service” or a “designee of the judge.” Section 12-15-1(13), Ala. Code 1975.
Rule 8(A), Alabama Rules of Juvenile Procedure, provides that:
“A juvenile court judge shall designate, in writing, one or more employees of the judicial branch of government, including certified juvenile probation officers, to serve as an intake officer for the juvenile court.”
These designations should be done by presiding juvenile court judges when there is more than one juvenile court judge. The recommended format for designations of intake officers is by administrative orders. A sample Administrative Order may be found in the Appendix. Originals of these orders should be filed with the circuit clerks, and copies may be distributed to local officials, detention and shelter care providers. Each time there are changes in the composition of intake offices, new administrative orders should be issued and filed with the clerks to supersede pervious orders. Juvenile probation officers, state-employed or county-employed, are the most readily available judicial personnel for designation as intake officers. They are also presumed to be the most qualified personnel for intake assessments and decision-making in delinquent and child in need of supervision matters. Where juvenile probation support personnel are available, many have demonstrated that non-certified personnel can serve competently as intake officers.
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Employees of the circuit clerks’ offices are another source of judicial personnel who may serve as intake officers for juvenile courts. Where there is limited staff, the clerks’ office personnel may be used only as back-up to intake officers. This may be essential in counties where there is only one juvenile probation officer and no probation support personnel. That lone juvenile probation officer cannot serve as the intake officer for the juvenile probation officer’s own petitions to revoke probation, aftercare, or protective supervision.
Rule 8(B), AlaR.Juv.P., further requires intake officers to be neutral and detached from activities of the executive and legislative branches of government. It specifically states that:
“Intake officers shall be neutral and detached from activities of the executive and legislative branches of government and shall perform duties as provided by law.”
Intake involves official acts of the judicial branch of government. Like judges and magistrates, intake officers shall recuse themselves from official acts in matters in which they cannot be completely neutral or in which conflicts of interest may arise. Juvenile probation officers should contact the Administrative Office of Courts for guidance in cases where recusal may be necessary.
Duties of Intake Officers
One of the official acts (powers) of intake officers is to administer oaths required for the intake process. Rule 8, Ala.R.Juv.P., provides that:
“Intake officers shall have the power to administer oaths for the purpose of verifying complaints and/or petitions in juvenile matters.”
Intake officers are no longer required to be magistrates. From 1994 to the beginning of 2006, only juvenile probation officers and other personnel who have been appointed and sworn to the office of magistrates could be designated intake officers. Rule 8(C), Ala.R.Juv.P., now provides that “Intake officers shall not be required to be magistrates under Rule 18, Alabama Rules of Judicial Administration, unless they issue warrants of arrest against adults tried in the juvenile court.”
Initiation of juvenile cases remains the most important function of intake officers and Section 12-15-50, Ala. Code 1975 provides that “Cases before the court shall be initiated by the filing of a petition by the intake officer who shall receive verified complaints and proceed thereon pursuant to rules of procedure adopted by the Supreme Court.”
Because the above statue does not qualify “cases as original juvenile cases, the statute is often applied to civil filings in juvenile courts. It has been argued that the statute only applies to the initiation of original juvenile cases before the court, that is, those in which a child is alleged to be delinquent, dependent or in need of supervision.
The applicable rule of juvenile procedure does not directly address the question of where the civil actions for juvenile court should be filed.
“Any person or agency having knowledge of the facts may make a complaint to the intake office, the complaint shall allege facts sufficient to establish the jurisdiction of the court and the child’s delinquency, dependency, or need of supervision.” Rule 12(A), Ala. R. Juv. P. Revision of the code section or amendment of the court rule will likely be needed to resolve this confusion.
Juvenile probation officers have authority over cases in which a complaint has been filed. Juvenile probation officers shall not solicit cases but rather shall become involved only in those cases where a formal legal process has been initiated.
Intake officers’ initial response to contacts initiated by complainants should consist principally of gathering sufficient information to determine the types of complaint to be filed. Parties not ready to file or want “service,” may be redirected to law enforcement agencies, district attorneys, the Department of Human Resources, or their own attorneys. No person or entity should be denied the right to file complaints. There are no age, mental competency, or “standing” requirements.
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Alabama Rules of Juvenile Procedure
Rule 12 guarantees that:
Any person or agency having knowledge of the facts may make a complaint to the intake office…
The Rule does require specific facts and circumstances to be alleged in the complaint in that:
“(T)he complaint shall allege facts sufficient to establish the jurisdiction of the court and the child’s delinquency, dependency, or need of supervision” [Rule 12(A, Ala.R.Juv.P.].
Intake officer can best judge, the sufficiency of these facts after complaints have been formally filed and verified by complainants on oath or affirmation. When complaints, or what is purported to be complaints, are presented to intake officers, intake officers should accept them immediately and record the dates and times of filing on the face of the complaints:
“A complaint is made when it is filed with the intake office, which shall immediately note thereon the date and time of filing.” [Rule 12(A), Ala.R.Juv.P.]
The above is a ministerial act on the part of intake officers. It is an official act that is prescribed by law so precisely that it does not involve any decision-making or exercise of discretion. No court official has the right to refuse to perform a ministerial act. The remedy for an official who does is a “writ of mandamus.”
The intake process officially begins when individuals or agencies file juvenile complaints with intake officers for the juvenile courts.
Juvenile complaints are written statements that:
  1. Identifies a specific child as the subject of the complaint.
  2. Alleges that this child is a “delinquent child,” a “dependent child,” or a “child in need of supervision” according to the statutory definitions of these terms [Rule 12(A), Ala.R.Juv.P].
  3. Sets forth the specific facts and circumstances on which the above allegations are based.
  4. Identifies the person or agency making the complaint.
The name of the official UJS form (Form JU-2) for a juvenile complaint is:
(UJS Form JU-2, originally approved in 1977 and most recently revised in October, 1988).
Copies of law enforcement agencies uniform incident/offense reports or arrest reports cannot be substituted for juvenile complaints. They may, however, be incorporated into juvenile complaints by attachment to and specific reference within the complaints.
Note: Although Form JU-2 is entitled, “Complaint (Information),” this instrument is not the same as an Information filed by a district attorney in a criminal case.
Juvenile complaints must be verified by the persons who signed them.
This may be done on oaths or affirmations before intake officers, notaries public or any other officials having the power to administer oaths. It is most frequently done by oaths or affirmations administered to the complainants by intake officers immediately after the filings are recorded. It must occur before intake officers initiate the preliminary inquiries phase of the intake process [Section 12-15-50 & Section 12-15- 52(b), Ala. Code 1975; Rule 8(B), Ala. R.Juv.P.].
It is best practice to record verification of complaints on documents in the following manner:
this ______ day of ________,
______._____, Intake Officer
This documents the following:
  1. The person who signed the complaint (affiant) personally appeared before the intake officer to take the oath.
  2. The affiant was known to the intake officer, or the intake officer verified the affiant’s identity by examining the affiant’s driver’s license or other picture identification.
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3. The intake officer informed the affiant that he or she was being placed on oath for the purpose of verifying the information set forth in the complaint or petition.
4. The intake officer asked the affiant for verification of the complaint with a question, such as “Do you swear or affirm that the information you have provided in this complaint is true according to your knowledge or your information and belief?”
5. The affiant responded affirmatively to the above question.
Intake officers may also place complainants on oath for interviews concerning information provided or not provided in the verified complaints. However, additional information obtained by interviews should not be considered in preliminary inquiries unless it is also recorded in supplemental affidavits of the complainants.
Making false statements on oaths or affirmations constitutes the crime of perjury. However, intake officers should not routinely remind affiants of this fact. Warnings about perjury should only be given when the intake officers have good cause to question the affiants’ credibility.
Once juvenile complaints have been filed with intake officers and verified by the persons who signed them, intake officers are obligated to conduct preliminary inquiries into the complaints within the time allowed by the rules of juvenile procedure.
Preliminary inquiries are reviews or evaluations of the information the complainants provided on oath. They are not investigations, and cannot involve intake officers seeking information from other sources on the complainants’ behalf. Investigations are the responsibility of the executive branch of government, that is, local law enforcement in delinquent complaints and local law enforcement and/or the Department of Human Resources in dependent and child in need of supervision complaints [Rule 12(B) & Comment, Ala. R. Juv. P.].
Intake inquiries may involve records checks as well.
In addition to intake interviews, intake investigations may involve information gathering from various kinds of records relating to juveniles—police reports, juvenile court or probation records, and sometimes school and social agency records, etc. Again, access to information from outside agency sources may require written consent of juveniles and their families. Intake officers should avoid compromising the juveniles’ privacy at these early stages unless the information sought is really necessary to intake decision-making. When records are consulted, they should not be overvalued; even “official” records can be incomplete, biased, or simply outdated.
Intake officers should confer with their local police departments to ensure that appropriate information is furnished in arrest reports. At a minimum, they should contain complete arrest and investigation reports, witness lists and statements, and evidence lists. Archival information contained in court records will be more readily available if courts have efficient filing systems or automated information systems that allow access to limited but necessary information [see AOC’s statewide information system]. In addition, crosstraining opportunities with line staff from these source agencies will go a long way toward educating them about goals and building relationships that are essential for successful collaboration and information sharing. One method for promoting information sharing is through court orders or through case referrals to the local children’s services facilitation teams.
Intake decision-making should serve clearly articulated goals.
Everyone who makes intake decisions for juvenile courts should be working toward the same set of clearly stated goals. Specific goals for intake might include any or all of the following:
– Keeping the “intake valve” tight—that is, minimizing the number of cases that receive formal processing.
– Handling all cases quickly, equitably, and consistently.
– Handling each juvenile with the least restrictive means consistent with the public’s safety.
– Holding all juveniles accountable for their actions.
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– Meeting the needs of juvenile crime victims.
– Addressing not just juveniles’ offenses but the underlying reasons for them.
Without goals such as these, the intake decisionmaking process would be “hit or miss.” Nevertheless, goals by themselves do not usually dictate intake decisions. At most, they suggest the directions in which intake decisions should be pointed, and provide the basic parameters for choosing among available alternatives. For example, aiming toward the goal of “keeping the intake valve tight” may require referring juveniles to community agencies wherever possible.
The goal of “holding juveniles accountable,” on the other hand, might call for rejecting intake options that do not involve formal sanctions. Meeting both goals in given cases may require finding informal referral options that nevertheless force juveniles to accept responsibility and make amends.
Specific guidelines give structure to intake decision-making.
It is not enough to articulate general goals, without specifying how to reach them in individual cases. Written guidelines—setting out criteria to be used in making decisions, questions to be answered, circumstances to be considered, and weights to be assigned to particular factors—serve to give structure and consistency to decision-making, without eliminating professional discretion. Intake decisionmaking guidelines may be laid out in the form of charts or matrices for the convenience of users. All good decision-making guidelines share some essential features:
– They are based on intake office policies and goals.
– They are sufficiently clear and specific to yield consistent results, but flexible enough to allow for departures in individual cases.
– Their use can be monitored and periodically assessed for fairness and consistency.
– They are dynamic and subject to modifications as needed.1
Preliminary assessments should gather only those facts needed to make good intake decisions.
As was explained in the preceding Chapter, when complaints against juveniles are referred to intake, intake decision-makers have not one, but two, basic questions to answer:
– Are complaints legally sufficient to support cases in juvenile courts?
– If so, what actions, if any, should be taken?
The first of these questions is fairly straightforward. The second is not. Neither can be responsibly answered without some investigations into the facts behind the complaints. Time is limited, of course, and so are resources. Conducting full-blown inquiries of every juvenile’s background at intake would not make practical sense, even if it were possible. On the other hand, conducting no inquiries can lead to ill-informed decision-making, ill-advised prosecutions, and irrational allocations of resources.
The best practice is to conduct limited assessments at intake, focusing on those factors that are relevant to intake decisions, but in the process: (1) identifying issues that may merit further examination; (2) noting information that may later proves; useful to judges, lawyers, detention staff, and others in the system; and (3) laying a basic foundation for more detailed assessments at the predisposition and case-planning stages.
Intake decision-makers must first consider whether legally sufficient cases have been made against juveniles.
Intake officers must decide whether the facts alleged in complaints bring matters within the jurisdiction of the courts [Rule 12(B), Ala.R.Juv.P.]. Legal sufficiency determinations are based primarily on reviews of complaints that have brought referrals to intake offices, supplemented by some verification and examination of the evidence.
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When are allegations sufficient? Four things must be established:
. Jurisdiction
1. Does the conduct alleged in complaints fall within the delinquency jurisdiction of the juvenile courts?
2. Does it constitute offenses? 3. Are they offenses over which courts have been given jurisdiction?
4. Are the juveniles the right ages for juvenile courts?
Intake officers must verify juveniles’ ages, rather than simply accept the ages listed on the arrest reports, and must be familiar not only with the upper age limits of juvenile courts jurisdiction (18), but also Sections 12- 15-34 and 12-15-34.1, which allow juveniles to be transferred or originally filed in adult courts.
Juvenile courts have jurisdiction over three types of cases: juvenile, civil, and criminal. See the chart in the back of this Chapter for the cases which fall into these three categories and the Code of Alabama citations.
. Termination of Jurisdiction
Juvenile courts’ jurisdiction over children terminates upon the following events occurring:
(1) When children become ages 21 years unless cases are terminated prior thereto by orders of the juvenile courts [Section 12-15-32(a)];
(2) When children in the jurisdiction of juvenile courts are convicted or adjudicated youthful offenders in the criminal courts for crimes committed after the ages of 18 years [Section 12-15-32(b), Ala. Code 1975];
(3) When children are transferred to adult courts pursuant to Section 12-15-34 and the children are convicted or adjudicated youthful offenders following the transfers [Section 12- 15-34(j), Ala. Code 1975].
. Exception
Juvenile courts retain jurisdiction over children until the children comply with any orders of the courts requiring the payments of fines, costs, restitution, or other court-ordered monies.
. Venue
The proper venue for delinquency and CHINS cases are the courts that serve the geographical area in which the offenses occurred. The venue for juvenile delinquency and CHINS cases shall be commenced “in the district where the acts constituting the allegations occurred.” Section 12-15-35(a), Ala. Code 1975.
The venue for juvenile dependency cases lies “…in the district (county) where the child resides or in the district (county) where the child is present when the proceedings are commenced.” §12-15-35(b), Ala. Code 1975.
. Probable Cause
Is there probable cause? What is required are early determinations that the allegations are supported by evidence that delinquent acts were committed and that they were committed by the juveniles.
Probable Cause Definition
The existence of facts and circumstances, which would cause reasonable persons to believe that:
. offenses were committed, and
. that the persons complained of probably committed the offenses.
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Intake Checklist
All intake decisions should be:
directed toward clear goals
guided by explicit, written criteria
based on limited assessments that yield pertinent information
Two questions must be answered:
Are these complaints legally sufficient?
If not, what should happen?
If so, what actions should be taken?
Cases to be handled by informal adjustment:
minor delinquent acts
no prior records/patterns of offending
no apparent need for services
juveniles have learned lessons
victims are satisfied
Complaints to be handled by informal adjustment:
extra incentives required for continued good behavior
Cases to be formally petitioned:
serious offenders
serious harm to victims
juveniles’ threat to communities
juveniles deny charges or desire hearings
juveniles have prior records of referrals (particularly where juveniles are very young)
services/sanctions required and juveniles/families unwilling to accept them
juveniles detained on current complaints
Cases to be made subject of consent decrees:
same as diverted but…
more “teeth” required to ensure compliance, satisfy victims, or hold juveniles accountable
Cases to be diverted (from juvenile justice system not from courts/judges):
juveniles do not deny allegations
juveniles are not threats to communities
juveniles/families willing to cooperate in services
needed services best provided by non-judicial agencies
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If intake officers determine that the facts as alleged or the evidence supporting them do not constitute probable cause, petitions should not be filed or further action should not be taken. If the facts are unclear, however— particularly the facts establishing venue or jurisdiction— complaints should be returned to the sources for further investigation, or to the prosecutors’ offices for determinations.
Determining whether legally sufficient cases belong in juvenile courts calls for further inquiries.
It is neither possible nor desirable to try all juveniles formally. Some are best let off with warnings, or on conditions that they promise not to offend again. Others need treatments or sanctions, but not judicial attention. Only relatively small percentages need to go to courts for formal adjudication and disposition. Intake officers must determine into which of these categories juveniles fit, given the nature of the offenses, the backgrounds and histories of the juveniles, the harm suffered by the victims, the views of the communities, the laws of the state, and local court policies. Making these determinations requires information not be available solely from the complaints.
Intake officers should conduct assessments in accordance with local policies. Generally, intake officers may conduct assessments with juveniles, their parents, victims, and from reviews of official records. Again, preliminary or intake investigations should not be confused with the more extensive predisposition investigations that occur later in the process. However, information gathered at intake can be useful to others, such as judges, district attorneys and attorneys, defending juveniles in these cases, intake supervisors, juvenile probation officers, detention/ treatment/correctional staff, and may serve as foundations for subsequent reports and case plans. Moreover, preliminary inquiries may identify issues that merit further investigations or more clinical assessments at later stages.
Intake officers who only perform duties as intake officers and do not also perform duties of juvenile probation officers should limit their assessments to information provided to them by juveniles or family members and through existing records.
The basic or “triage” information collected at intake should be factual, objective, limited in scope, and consistent with the mission and the goals of intake.
Generally, intake information should include the following:
. Demographic information
Juveniles’ names, addresses, dates of birth, genders, ethnicities, races, etc. Special attention should be paid to determining the juveniles’ full names as well as aliases.
. Offense information
Complete, yet succinct, descriptions of incidents and juveniles’ roles in them, including what happened, when and where they happened, who was involved (accomplices, victims), prior relationships between victims and juveniles, and any aggravating circumstances and conditions, including the nature and extent of damages or injuries sustained by victims, uses and types of weapons, and presence of drugs or alcohol as contributing factors.
. Prior court history information
The nature and number of juveniles’ prior contacts with the courts and the results of those contacts. If juveniles are active with the courts, assigned juvenile probation officers (if different from the intake officers) should be consulted.
. Juveniles’ statements
Whether juveniles admit guilt or involvement in the offenses, their attitudes toward law enforcement and juvenile court authorities, their assessment of their home situations, and their apparent maturity and understanding.
. Parents’ statements
Basic information about juveniles’ home situations, whether parents had knowledge of the offenses, any steps they have taken to correct or address juveniles’ misconduct, and whether they are willing to accept services.
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. Victim information
Contact information for victims, the impacts of offenses on victims, victims’ perception of the emotional as well as physical or economic harm caused, and victims’ views regarding what is required to repair the harm.
. Other information
This might include the recommendations of the police or other referring agencies. Basic information about juveniles’ schools and community backgrounds may also be collected at intake, but this should not be done intrusively or without the consent of juveniles and their parents.
Intake interviews with juveniles must strike a balance between the need for information and the rights of the accused.
Information collected at intake can be of a sensitive and personal nature. Often it is obtained from juveniles and families who have not had contact with attorneys, who are unfamiliar with juvenile court procedures and unaware of their rights in the system. Intake offices must have policies that ensure appropriate confidentiality and prevent misuse of intake information. Individual intake officers should take responsibility for setting a tone of fairness in intake interviews.
Intake interviews should be non-threatening and nonadversarial. They should be conducted in quiet, private rooms, preferably one designed for interviews. During interviews, intake officers should:
. Explain the allegations
Intake officers should explain to juveniles and their parents that complaints have been filed and outline allegations made in the complaints.
Explaining the intake process. Intake officers should clarify the specific procedures and stages of the intake process as well as the roles and authorities of intake officers to determine how cases should be processed.
. Explain that participation is voluntary
If refusal to participate in intake interviews preclude dismissal or diversion of complaints—matters that should be addressed one way or another by written policies— intake officers should make this clear as well.
. Obtain informed consent
If information from sources other than victims, police, or witnesses is needed to make intake decisions (e.g., from schools or other public or private agencies), intake officers should seek informed consent to disclosures of this information from juveniles and their parents. Again, if refusal to give consent precludes dismissal or diversion of complaints, it should be clearly stated in policies and clearly explained in intake interviews.
. Provide notice of Miranda rights
Intake officers should notify juveniles and their parents of their right to remain silent as to the allegations in the complaints and to attorneys. Notification should be provided at the time the requests to attend the interviews are made. If not given until the first interviews, notice should be both verbal and written, and the parties should sign the written versions. Both the oral and written versions of the notices should be translated into other languages where necessary. (See Alabama Rules of Juvenile Procedure, Rule 11- Rights of the Child and Section 12-15-51, Ala. Code 1975)
Intake officers should determine whether juveniles, their families, or their attorneys desire court hearings on the charges. Alleged juveniles do have rights to hearings. Where appropriate, in order to enlighten the parents as to the behavior of their children and help them to judge the wisdom of insisting on hearings, intake officers can share incriminating information contained in complaints, statements of complainants or victims, etc. However, intake officers should exercise caution and should especially refrain from giving the appearance of dispensing legal advice or of making promises or predictions about matters outside their authority. Care should also be taken not to release information about victims.
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Rule 15 – Informal Adjustment
If there is sufficient evidence to bring that child within the jurisdiction of the court, and following advisement of rights to the child and his parents or custodian, including the right to counsel at this and all other stages of the proceeding, upon recommendation of the intake office the matter may be held open and the intake office may attempt, with the consent of the child and his parents or custodian, to make satisfactory informal adjustment.
(B)Informal adjustment shall include counseling and advising the child and his parents or custodian by the intake officer and other appropriate persons, which persons may include the judge of the juvenile court, and informal adjustment may also include, with the consent of the juvenile and with the temporary placement of the juvenile with persons other than his parents or custodian. Referrals may be made to public and private agencies which may provide assistance or services to the juvenile and his parents or custodian.
(C) The intake officer may either terminate the informal adjustment process and dismiss the child without further proceedings or terminate the informal adjustment process and file a petition in the court if at any time:
(1) It appears that the child and his parents or custodian have received the maximum benefit form the informal adjustment process;
(2) The child or his parents or custodian declines to participate further in the informal adjustment process;
(3) The child or his parents or custodian denies the jurisdiction of the court;
(4) The child or his parents or custodians expresses a desire that the facts be determined by the court;
(5) The child fails without reasonable excuse to attend scheduled conference;
(6) The child appears unable or unwilling to benefit from the informal adjustment process;
(7) The intake officer becomes apprised of new or additional information which makes it appear that further efforts at informal adjustment would not be in the best interests of the juvenile or of society; or
(8) Other sufficient reasons exist for terminating the informal adjustment process.
(D) The informal adjustment process shall not continue beyond a period of six months form its commencement.
(E) Upon termination of the informal adjustment process and dismissal of the child without further proceedings, the intake officer shall notify the child and his parents or custodian thereof and report such action to the court.
Intake information should be recorded in preliminary investigation reports.
Information gathered during preliminary investigations may form the foundation for subsequent assessments, eventually helping to inform decisions regarding disposition and case planning. The value of intake information to those subsequently working with cases depends in large part on how accurately, consistently, and legibly the information is recorded. Many intake offices have templates or standardized formats for recording the information, often in word processing software or as part of a court-or probation-wide automated information systems. The value of standard formats is that it forces intake officers to collect relevant information systematically and consistently across all pertinent domains, while providing a structure for organizing and then summarizing the information— sometimes in the form of charts or data screens that will facilitate review and decision-making.
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Screening at Intake
Intake decisions require the collection and analysis of limited amounts of information in relatively short periods of time. Full-blown social histories, psychological evaluations, and clinical assessments are not necessary or feasible at this point. Intake officers can and often do use simple screening instruments to identify those juveniles who—because of possible substance abuse, mental illness, or other problems— may be good candidates for more thorough evaluations later.
This is the “gated approach” to assessments, and all it requires are valid, reliable screening instruments that can be quickly and easily administered and interpreted by non-clinicians. If screens identify juveniles as having potential problems, they are referred to qualified drug and alcohol or mental health professionals for more in-depth clinical assessments. Individual intake offices must decide whether to screen all cases or just samples, and what use to make of the results in individual intake decision-making.
One commonly administered screening instrument is the Massachusetts Youth Screening Instrument-Second Version, or MAYSI-2, which consists of a series of 52 simple yes-or-no questions designed to detect signs of suicidal thinking, potentially abusive alcohol or drug use, anger and short-term aggression risk, depression/anxiety, physical symptoms associated with distress, thought disorders, and exposure to trauma. (MAYSI-2 is discussed more fully in the chapter on “Special Populations.”) Screening instruments like these serve as triage tools for line staff—alerting them to the need for further evaluation, counseling, investigations or referrals, and in some cases, precautionary vigilance. Other instruments such as DISC-4 may also be used for assessments.
Some intake offices also attempt at intake to identify those juveniles who are at risk of becoming chronic offenders, so that they can be targeted for early intervention. For example, intake officers with the Orange County (California) Probation Department routinely tag potential “8% cases”— that is, juveniles who share three or more of the profile factors that, according to a mid-1990’s departmental study, are associated with the 8% of the department’s caseload that was responsible for more than half of all repeat offenses—so that they can receive more aggressive, family-focused services.
Sources: For information about MAYSI-2, contact the National Youth Screening Assistance Project, 55 Lake Avenue North, Worcester, MA 01655, (508) 856-3625.
For information about the 8% Solution program, contact the Orange County Probation Department at 909 N. Main Street, Santa Ana, CA 92701, (714) 569-2000,, or see Schumacher, M., and Kurz, G. (1999). The 8% Solution: Preventing Serious, Repeat Juvenile Crime Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications, Inc. Page
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Placing Into Custody
Intake may or may not include screening admissions to detention or shelter care of children taken into custody without orders of the court. When children are summarily taken into custody and are not released, persons who took children into custody are required to deliver children to places designated by courts and “…in the most expeditious manner possible, give notice of the action taken, together with the statement of the reasons for taking the child into custody, in writing to the intake office, to the court and to the parent, guardian or other custodian of the child and, in the case of dependency, to the Department of Human Resources…” Section 12-15-58(a)(3), Ala. Code 1975.
The statute then requires persons in charge of intake offices or representatives of the Department of Human Resources (DHR), prior to admitting children for care, to review the needs for detention or shelter care and shall release the children unless detention or shelter care is required under Section 12-15-59 or has been ordered by the court. {(12-15-58(b), Ala. Code 1975}. The statute does not specify whether the decisions are to be made by intake officers or DHR, and does not require the courts to designate which of the two is to make the decisions. The best practice would be for presiding judges of the juvenile courts to issue administrative orders specifying whether intake offices or DHR offices will screen admissions to detention and shelter care.
It appears that juvenile courts in the state favor keeping this intake function in delinquent and child in need of supervision referrals by formally designating this function as a duty of the intake office. They are not so consistent with referrals of children for dependency. Some remove it from intake functions by designating the DHR as the authority to screen shelter care referrals of dependent children.
Intake procedure for delinquency, dependency, and CHINS cases
Filing of complaints and preliminary inquiries
In Alabama, persons or agencies having knowledge of the facts may make complaints alleging facts sufficient to establish the jurisdiction of the courts and the children’s delinquency, dependency, or CHINS with intake officers of the juvenile or family courts. When complaints are filed, intake officers must note on the complaints the date and time of filing. [Section 12-15- 50, Ala. Code 1975; Rule 12(A), Ala.R.Juv.P.]
Once complaints are filed, intake officers are required to conduct preliminary inquiries and determine whether the best interests of the children or of the public require that petitions be filed and whether children are within the jurisdiction of the court as follows [Rule 12(B), Ala. R.Juv.P.]
Filing of the petitions
Once complaints are filed and it appears from the preliminary inquiries that children are within the jurisdiction of the courts, intake officers initiate the cases by filing petitions. [Section 12-15-50, Ala. Code 1975, Rule 12(C)(2), Ala. R.Juv.P.]
Intake officers must file petitions within 14 days of receiving complaints, except when children have been placed in shelter care, in which cases petitions must be filed by the intake offices within 72 hours [Rule 12(D), Ala. R.Juv.P.].
Requirements of petitions
(1) Entitled “In the matter of __________, a child.”
(2) Verified by persons who sign them[Note: petitions may be signed by any person who has knowledge of the facts alleged or is informed of them and believes that they are true]
(3) Contain specific facts bringing children within the jurisdiction of the juvenile courts and specific facts constituting the dependency, delinquency, or in need of supervision of children and that children are in need of supervision, treatment, rehabilitation, care or the protection of the state.
(4) If known, contains the names, ages, and residence addresses of children
(5) If known, contains the names and residence addresses of parents, guardians, or custodians, or if there are none in the state, the names of the nearest known adult relatives. [Section 12- 15-52, Ala. Code 1975]
(6) Contains notices at the bottom of the petitions, notifying parents or guardians that they may be made parties to the case pursuant to Section 12-15-31(5), and, if made parties, among other things, may be required to pay attorney fees, to pay for evaluation and pay for care, support, and supervision of children. [Rule 31(B), Ala.R.JuvP)]
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Issuance of summonses
Sections 12-15-53(a) and (b), Ala. Code 1975, provide that after dependency, delinquency, or CHINS petitions have been filed, courts shall direct the issuance of summonses, along with copies of petitions, to the following persons: children if 12 years of age or older; the parents, guardians, or other custodians; and to other persons who appear to the courts to be proper and necessary parties to the proceedings. Rule 13(A), Ala.R.Juv.P., also provides for the service of summonses to these same persons.
Section 12-15-54 provides that service of the summonses shall be pursuant to the rules of procedure adopted by the Supreme Court. Rule 13(A) further provides for service of the summonses to be pursuant to the Alabama Rules of Civil Procedure, except as otherwise provided by Rule. Rule 4(i), ARCP, sets out the methods of service authorized: delivery by process servers (either sheriffs, constables, or designated persons), or service by certified mail (which can be made upon written requests filed with clerks by the plaintiffs). Rule 13(B), Ala.R.Juv.P., provides that notices by publication are not authorized except in termination of parental rights proceedings.
Summonses must be served at least 24 hours before hearings on the merits, [Rule 13(A), Ala.R.Juv.P.] Service of summonses give juvenile courts jurisdiction over the persons served, but the inability to serve any party shall not deprive the court of jurisdiction to proceed [Rule 13(C), Ala.R.Juv.P.]. If persons summoned fail to appear without reasonable cause, contempt citations may be issued [Rule 13(D), Ala.R.Juv.P.]
Summons forms notify the parties summoned to personally appear before courts, at times fixed, to answer or testify as to the allegations of petitions. In addition, courts may order the parents, guardians, or custodians to bring children to the hearings. Courts may also order officers serving the summonses to immediately take children into custody and deliver the children to shelter or other care facilities if such actions appear necessary based on affidavits or sworn statements. [Section 12-15- 53(a), (c), and (d), Ala. Code 1975]
Following intake assessments, intake officers must choose from among a range of case-handling options—including the option of taking no further action.
As was discussed earlier, intake officers should have the benefit of explicit guidelines that inform and give structure to decision-making while preserving discretion. These can and should vary, depending on Alabama laws and court rules, court policies, intake goals, etc. Generally, however, all intake decisions should attempt to protect communities, to hold juveniles accountable for their actions, and to address the needs of the victims of juvenile crime. Intake decision-makers should consider levels of sanctions needed as well as the availability of appropriate interventions or treatment services in communities.
Many juveniles caught committing minor offenses arrive at intake having already learned their lessons. The experience up to that point—being caught, being scared, having to admit wrongdoing and acknowledge the harm caused, having to face their parents, etc.—has been sanction enough. They do not need any services. They are unlikely to offend again, in any case. Official records of delinquency will probably do more harm than good.
The option of dismissing legally sufficient complaints at intake should be reserved for cases involving juveniles who are accused of minor offenses, who have no prior records or patterns of offending and no apparent need for services, who seem to have learned their lessons, and whose victims (if any) are satisfied to let the matters drop. Similar cases should be held in abeyance—rather than dismissed immediately and outright—when intake officers conclude that some incentive is required for the juveniles’ good behavior.
Diversion should be considered in every case where law and policy permit.
Sometimes, the above dismissal options are loosely called “diversion,” because in effect they divert juveniles away from the system. Strictly speaking, however, the term should be reserved for intake options involving diversion to something: some alternative, non-judicial agencies or forums for resolving these matters.2
Diversion in general—along with the need to promote the development of a wide range of local alternatives, services, and programs for diverting juveniles from formal court processing—is the subject of the next chapter. However, several points should be made here in connection with the decision to divert.
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First, intake officers should consider diverting cooperative juveniles who are in need of sanctions and services that can be more effectively provided by nonjudicial agencies than by the courts in formal dispositions. Individual diversion programs will have their own criteria for admission. Generally, diversion may be appropriate where juveniles do not deny the allegations and are not a threat to their communities; juveniles and their parents are willing to accept voluntarily whatever services or corrective measures are needed; suitable diversion resources are available in the communities; the victims are satisfied with the diversion decisions; and the communities’ needs will be met thereby.
On the other hand, diversion should not “widen the Consent decree. net” of social control. In other words, juveniles should not be considered for diversion if, in the absence of a diversion programs, juveniles’ cases would ordinarily be dismissed.
For cases being diverted to communities for resolution or services, intake officers should review the terms of diversion agreements with juveniles and their parents. Diversion agreements should encourage reparation to victims and/or the communities through community services or restitution. Intake offices should have written policies covering the planning and monitoring of diversion agreements as well as actions to be taken in cases of noncompliance.
Consent decrees
Consent decrees are agreements by all parties to keep juveniles under court supervision for specified periods of time under certain negotiated terms and conditions. Consent Decrees, by their nature are Court approved and Court Ordered and signed by the Judge.
Formal court actions should be reserved for more serious or disputed cases.
Formal petitions should be filed only when intake officers find that juveniles and their parents deny the charges and desire hearings before the courts; that services or corrective measures are required to resolve the matters and the juveniles and their parents are unwilling to accept them voluntarily; that the juveniles have several prior referrals to courts; or that the seriousness of the offense, the threat posed to the public, or the nature and extent of harm to the victims, rules out informal handling.
Ideally, the petitions should: (1) assist the parties to prepare adequately for trials and reduce surprises or disadvantages to the respondents; (2) provide records of the allegations tried for purposes of the double jeopardy protection; and (3) enable the courts to conduct orderly and directed fact-finding hearings. At a minimum, petitions should include the juveniles’ names, addresses and dates of birth; the dates, times, manners and places of the alleged acts; citations for the offenses found in the juvenile code; and the types of dispositions to which the juveniles could be subjected.
Alabama Rules of Juvenile Procedure - Rule 16
Continuance under supervision without adjudication-
Consent decree.
(A) At any time after the filing of a delinquency or in need of supervision petition and before the entry of an adjudication order, the court, following advisement of rights to the child and his parents or custodian including the right to counsel at this and other stages of the proceedings, may suspend the conditions negotiated with probation services and agreed to by all parties affected; provided, however, that the judge may continue the child under supervision over the objection of the prosecutor. The court’s order continuing the child under supervision shall be know as a consent decree.
(B) Where the child objects to a consent decree, the court shall proceed to findings, adjudication and disposition. Where the child does not object, but an objection is made by the prosecutor after consultation with probation services, the court shall, after considering the objections and reason thereof, proceed to determine whether it is appropriate to enter a consent decree.
(C) A consent decree shall remain in force for six months unless the child is discharged sooner by the court. Upon application of probation services or other agency supervising the child, made before expiration of the six-month period, a consent decree may be extended by the court for an additional six months.
(D) If prior to a discharge by the probation services or expiration of the consent decree, a new delinquency or in need of supervision petition is filed against the child, or the child otherwise fails to fulfill express terms and conditions of the decree, the petition under which the child was continued under supervision may be reinstated and the case may proceed to adjudication just as if the cost decree has never been entered.
(E) The petition of a child who is discharged or who completes a period of continuances under supervision without reinstatement of the original delinquency or in need of supervision petition shall be dismissed and the child shall not again be proceeded against in any court for the same offense based upon the same conduct.
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Alabama Rules of Juvenile Procedure
Rule 11: Rights of the child.
(A) Rights of the child when taken into custody. When the child is taken into custody, the person taking the child into custody must inform the child of the following:
(1) The reason for the child’s being taken into custody;
(2) That if the child’s counsel, parent, or guardian is not present, then the child has the right to communicate with them, and that, if necessary, reasonable means will be provided for the child to do so.
(B) Rights of the child before being questioned while in custody. Before the child is questioned about anything concerning the charge on which the child was arrested, the person asking the questions must inform the child of the following rights:
(1) That the child has the right to counsel;
(2) That if the child is unable to pay a lawyer and it the child’s parents or guardians have not provided a lawyer, one can be provided;
(3) That the child is not required to say anything and that anything the child says may be used against the child;
(4) That if the child’s counsel, parent, or guardian is not present, then the child has the right to communicate with them, and that, if necessary, reasonable means will be provided for the child to do so.
(C) When a child is brought to the intake office of probation services or delivered to a place of detention or shelter care, the intake officer or person in charge of the facility shall immediately inform the child of the following:
(1) The reason for the child’s detention
(2) The child’s right to a detention hearing as provided under these rules; and
(3) That the child’s parents or guardian will be informed of the child’s whereabouts and the reason for the child’s detention.
(D) Rights of the child upon detention pursuant to part (C) of this Rule, the person in charge of the intake office or the facility shall notify the child of the child’s rights as set out in part (B) of this Rule.
(1) The person in charge of the intake office or the detention facility shall; in the most expeditious manner possible, ensure that the parents or guardian of the child are notified of the child’s whereabouts and the reason for the child’s detention. Except in the situation provided for hereinafter, the person in charge shall also inform the parents or guardian of the child of the child’s rights and of the parents’ or guardian’s right to be represented by counsel.
The parents or guardian shall also be informed of the child’s right to remain silent. However, if the child has been read his or her rights; understand those rights; knowingly, voluntarily, and intelligently waives those rights; and gives a statement, then it is not necessary that the parents or guardian be notified of the child’s rights or to be present during the interrogation. Such a notification to the parents or guardian shall, if practicable, be made in person or by telephone; otherwise, the communication shall be by the best means practicable.
(2) A written statement containing the above information shall be given to the parents or to the guardian at their first meeting with the officer. It they do not appear at the facility within 24 hours after the placement of the child in the facility or if they fail to attend the detention or shelter care hearing, this written statement shall be mailed to them if their addresses may reasonably be ascertained.
(E) Rights of parties once a petition is filed. If a petition has been filed, the parties shall be informed of their rights as set out in parts (B) and (D)(1) of this rule. In addition, the court shall inform the parties at the commencement of the detention of shelter or other care hearing, of the contents of the petition, and all of the parties shall be given an opportunity to admit or deny the allegations of the petition.
(F) Additional rights of the child.
(1) The child has a right to be represented by counsel at all stages of the proceedings.
(a) In any proceeding in which there is a reasonable likelihood that the child may be committed to an institution in which the child’s freedom may be curtailed, and in which proceeding counsel has not been retained, counsel shall be appointed for the child.
(b) In all other proceedings, the court may appoint counsel in any case upon request or when it deems such appointment to be in the interest of justice.
(2) The child, through counsel, has the right to crossexamine witnesses.
(3) The child has the right to confront all witnesses against the child unless the court finds that such confrontation would not be in the best interest of the child.
(4)the child shall be furnished a transcript on appeal. If the child or the child’s parents cannot afford a transcript, the court shall order that the transcript be paid for out of funds set aside for this purpose. (Amended eff. 5-1-94.)
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1 Gottfredson, D. (Ed.), (2000). Juvenile Justice With Eyes Open: Methods for Improving Information for Juvenile Justice. Pittsburgh, PA: National Center for Juvenile Justice.
2 Kurlychek, M., Torbet, P., and Bozynski, M. (August 1999). “Focus on Accountability: Best Practices for Juvenile Court and Probation.” JAIBG Bulletin. Washington, DC: Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention.
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§§ 26-21-1, et seq., Ala. Code 1975, Temporary Rules, ARCP.
Proceedings in the matter of a person under the age of 18 for judicial waiver of the parental consent requirement for the person under the age of 18 to have an abortion. § 26-21-4(a), Ala. Code 1975. Exclusive Original Civil
§§ 26-10A-1 et seq., Ala. Code 1975; Alabama Rules of Civil Procedure
Proceedings in the matter of a person under the age of 18 for adoption of the person when the proceedings have been removed from probate court on motion of any party to the original adoption proceeding. Exclusive Original Civil
§ 12-15-12; rule 70(c)(1), ARCP, for underlying juvenile and civil case; Rule 33.3(b), ARCrP, for underlying criminal cases.
Proceedings by a plaintiff v. a defendant of any age for direct or indirect contempt of court in an underlying case before the juvenile court. Continuing
§§ 30-3-1 et seq., & 30-3B-101 – 30- 3B-405, Ala. Code 1975; Alabama Rules of Civil Procedure.
Proceedings in the matter of a “child” who is “otherwise before the court” to determine custody of the child or to appoint a guardian of the person of the child. Including Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act. Exclusive Original Civil
§§ 26-13-1 et seq., Ala. Code 1975; Alabama Rules of Civil Procedure.
Proceedings in the matter of a person 18 years of age for removal of the person’s disabilities of nonage. Exclusive Original Civil
§ 12-15-1 et seq., Ala. Code 1975; Alabama Rules of Civil Procedure.
Proceedings in the matter of a “child” for emergency protection of the child or for emergency medical treatment for the child. Original Civil
§ 12-15-90, Ala. Code 1975; Alabama Rules of Civil Procedure
Proceedings in the matter of a “child” or a “minor” for commitment to the Alabama Department of Mental Health and Mental Retardation as a mentally retarded child or minor. Exclusive Original Civil
§ 12-15-30(b)(2), Ala. Code 1975; Alabama Rules of Civil Procedure; “the laws relating thereto” (§12-15- 30, Ala. Code 1975).
Proceedings in the matter of a ‘child” for judicial consent to the child’s marriage, employment, enlistment or withdrawal from school when such consent is required by law. Exclusive Original Civil
§ 26-17-1 et seq., Ala. Code 1975; Alabama Rules of Civil Procedure. Note: JU paternity cases should be assigned CS case numbers for SJIS processing purposes
Proceedings by a plaintiff or the State of Alabama (Department of Human Resources) v. a defendant of any age to establish paternity of a child born out of wedlock. Exclusive Original Civil
§§12-15-1(3) & §12-15-30(c), Ala. Code 1975; Alabama Rules of Civil Procedure
Proceedings in the matter of a “child” where it is alleged that the child’s rights are improperly denied or infringed in proceedings resulting in the child’s suspension, expulsion or exclusion from a public school. Original Civil
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§§ 12-15-76, 12-15-100, 12-15-101 & 15-20-28, Ala. Code 1975; Alabama Rules of Criminal Procedure
Proceedings by the State of Alabama v. a defendant who is not a “child” and is charged with the offense of violating the confidentiality of juvenile court records, juvenile law enforcement records, juvenile fingerprint, photograph or DNA records, or juvenile sex offender notice to a school. Exclusive original criminal
§§ 12-15-13 & 12-15-76, Ala. Code 1975, Alabama Rules of Criminal Procedure
Proceedings by the State of Alabama v. a defendant who is not a “child” and is charged with the offense of contributing to the delinquency, dependency or in need of supervision or a child. Exclusive original criminal
§§ 12-15-1 & 12-15-31(1)b., Ala. Code 1975; Alabama Rules of Criminal Procedure.
Proceedings by the State of Alabama v. a defendant who is not a “child” and is charged with the offense of disobeying an order of the juvenile court. Exclusive original criminal
§§ 12-15-14 & 12-15-76, Ala. Code 1975; Alabama Rules of Criminal Procedure.
Proceedings in the matter of a “child” who is “otherwise before the court” to determine custody of the child or to appoint a guardian of the person of the child. Including Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act. Exclusive Original Civil
§§ 12-15-76 & 13A-13-4, Ala. Code 1975; Alabama Rules of Criminal Procedure.
Proceedings in the matter of a person 18 years of age for removal of the person’s disabilities of nonage. Exclusive Original Civil
§§ 12-15-1 & 16-28-21, Ala. Code 1975; Alabama Rules of Criminal Procedure.
Proceedings by the State of Alabama v. a defendant who is not a “child” and is charged with the offense of violating the compulsory school attendance law, compelling their child to properly conduct himself or herself according to school policy or failing to report a suspected violation of the foregoing. Exclusive original criminal
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§§ 12-15-1 – 12-15-176, Ala. Code 1975; Alabama Rules of Juvenile Procedure. §§ 44-2-1 et seq., Ala. Code 1975, where Interstate Compact n Juvenile applies.
Proceedings in the matter of a “child” who is alleged to be a “delinquent child” in that he or she committed a “delinquent act” Exclusive original juvenile
§§ 12-15-1 – 12-15-176, Ala. Code 1975; Alabama Rules of Juvenile Procedure §§ 44-2-1 et seq., Ala. Code 1975, where Interstate Compact n Juvenile applies.
Proceedings in the matter of a “child” who is alleged to be a “child in need of supervision.” Exclusive original juvenile
§§ 12-15-1 – 12-15-176, Ala. Code 1975; Alabama Rules of Juvenile Procedure. §§ 26-18-1 et seq., Ala. Code 1975, where termination of parental rights applies.
Proceedings in the matter of a “child” who is alleged to be a “dependent child” Exclusive original juvenile
None. The practice of the DYS is to file a “petition for aftercare” with the CJPO of the committing juvenile court prior to the child’s discharge from DYS custody.
Proceedings in the matter of a “child” who has been adjudicated a “delinquent child” or a “child in the need of supervision” in an underlying juvenile case for supervision and placement on the legal status of ‘aftercare” upon release from a commitment. Continuing delinquent or child in need of supervision
§§ 12-15-50 & 12-15-75, Ala. Code 1875; Rule 12 ARJP.
Proceedings in the matter of a “child” who has been adjudged a “delinquent child” or a “child in need of supervision’ in an underlying juvenile case for revocation of the legal status of “probation” or “aftercare” ordered in the underlying case; or proceedings in the matter of a child who has been adjudged a “dependent child” in an underlying juvenile case for revocation of the legal status of “protective supervision” ordered in the underlying case. Continuing delinquent, child in need of supervision or dependent
None. SEE §12-15-74, Ala. Code 1975, for motions; see Rule 1, ARJP, and Alabama Rules of Civil Procedure; or see “CUSTODY” section of this chart.
Proceedings in the matter of a child for modification of an order of custody or other order of the court in an underlying juvenile case. Presumed rather than specified
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         In this chapter, the following topics will be

the purpose of diversion

diversion decision-making criteria

elements of good diversion practices

some promising diversion programs

While not specifically addressed in the Code of Alabama or court rule, diversion from formal juvenile court processing does occur in the state and serves a number of important purposes.

As the previous chapters on delinquency case processing and intake decision-making have made clear, most minor juvenile offenders never see the inside of juvenile courtrooms. For instance, law enforcement officers may decline to arrest them or release them after arrest without referring them to juvenile court intake.

Diversion is a loose term—and often a very loose practice. Almost any response to juvenile offending that does not involve court processing can go by the name of diversion, and some that amount to no response at all. "Informal probation" in which juveniles are released upon a promise of good behavior, but without supervision, referrals, obligations, sanctions, or services of any kind may be appropriate in some situations, and is certainly a widespread practice. However, these actions do not constitute diversion as intended here. For purposes of this Guide, diversion will be defined as the process of channeling re fe rre d j uvenile s from fo rmal j uvenile c ou rt p ro ce s sing to alternative forums outside of the juvenile court system for resolution of matters and/or community-based agencies for help.1 Diversion of this kind has the potential to engage community members in holding juveniles accountable while meeting the legitimate needs of victims, juveniles, and the public. 


Diversion is inevitable. It is also desirable. In appropriate cases, diversion serves system goals better than formal judicial processing. Among the good reasons for diverting juveniles wherever possible are the following:

Avoiding stigma. Delinquency adjudications can do significant and often needless harm to juveniles' future. When juveniles and their families are willing to accept services and correc­tive actions without going through appropriate formal process there seems little purpose to be served in treating juveniles through a formal process.

Involving communities and victims.

Traditional court handling of juveniles often makes use of collateral service providers inaccessible. Diversion programs often make room for them.

Reducing burdens on court systems.

Currently, fewer than three out of five referrals result in petitions filed; of those cases in which petitions are filed, fewer than three out of five are adjudicated.2 Diversion is considerably more efficient than formal adversarial processes. Moreover, it reduces court and probation caseloads so that resources can be allocated to more serious juvenile offenders.

Exercising wise restraint. In the long run, choosing measured, informal responses to juvenile offending often makes the most sense as most juveniles referred to juvenile courts never aeain are referred to theses courts.3


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Eligibility criteria for diversion will vary from jurisdiction to jurisdiction. The previous chapter on intake decision-making discussed the approach that should be taken and the factors that should be considered in choosing candidates for diversion. Diversion decisions should be structured by explicit guidelines that serve goals. Guidelines should be sufficiently firm and specific to be of practical assistance to decision-makers but flexible to permit the exercise of discretion. Guidelines should seek to maximi2e diversion opportunities for juveniles, without "widening the net" to capture juveniles whose cases might well ultimately be dismissed. Although specific diversion criteria can and should vary from jurisdiction to jurisdiction, they should result in the diversion of most minor juvenile offenders who have no serious prior involvement with the courts and who along with their families are willing to accept services and sanctions voluntarily.

In all cases where diversion may be considered, the legal sufficiency of the referrals should dictate the nature of the diversionary approach. If legal sufficiency exists, it is appropriate to sanction contingent behavior on the part of juveniles and their families (see section, below, on diversion arrangements). If no legal sufficiency is apparent, it is acceptable for juvenile probation officers to suggest options to address identified problems or issues, but potential sanctions should not be attached to the completion of the recommended options.

All diversion arrangements should be reflected in clear and complete diversion agreements. At what is sometimes called "adjustment conferences," intake officers meet with juveniles, their parents, and their attorneys, if any, to negotiate the conditions under which complaints against juveniles maybe resolved through diversion. The product of this conference should be diversion agreements—written contracts that reflect the terms and conditions under which the case will be diverted. All diversion agreements should clearly state that intake officers will not file petitions in exchange for certain commitments from juveniles and their families with respect to the agreed conditions.

Good diversion agreements share the following characteristics:

¦      Clarity and specificity. Agreements should express objectives that are measurable (deadlines, work hours, sums of money, etc.). They should steer clear of vague or disputable conditions or obligations ("show respect," etc.).

¦ Informed consent. Agreements should clearly reflect that the juveniles and their parents were notified of their right to refuse diversion and to demand adjudication hearings before judges. They should also make clear that the juveniles and parents may terminate agreements at any time and request adjudication hearings.

¦ Definite, limited duration. Diversion agreements should not hold cases open indefinitely. They should state what juveniles have to do and provide for the closure of the cases if they do it. Once diversion agreements have been signed, the subsequent filing of petitions based on the events out of which the original complaints arose should be permitted for a period of time (e.g., three to six months) from the dates of the agreements. If no petitions are filed within that period, then subsequent filing for the present offenses should be prohibited.

Good diversion calls for activity, not just passivity, from juveniles. To be effective, diversion agreements should not just require juveniles to stay out of trouble. They should provide for services and interventions that hold juveniles accountable, focus on their strengths in a positive development framework, satisfy victims5 concerns, and involve the communities in efforts to effectuate positive changes in their lives.

The following are typical features of diversion agreements that are positive/active rather than n egative /pas sive: — Community service. — Restitution.


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— Victims' awareness/effects of crime classes.

— Essay/art projects relating to effects of or harm caused by offending.

— Offense-specific support groups or classes (e.g., drug/alcohol, conflict resolution).

— Law-related education.

— Participation in pro-social community activities (e.g., 4-H, Boys & Girls Clubs, scouting, school groups) with opportunities to practice learned skills.

— Mentoring or tutoring programs.

Most diversion programs fall into two broad categories. Although a variety of diversion programs exists, most are either: (1) alternative dispute resolution (ADR) programs, or (2) community-based programs that provide other kinds of services and interventions to juveniles and families.

ADR programs include "participatory" ones, in which parties to disputes allow neutral facilitators to help them discuss issues and develop mutually acceptable resolutions, and "adjudicatory" ones, in which juveniles appear before a panel of citi2ens who hear the cases and determine sanctions.4 Victim/offender mediation, circle sentencing, and family group conferencing are examples of the former. Teen courts, peer juries, Juvenile Conference Committees, citi2en hearing boards, and youth aid panels are all examples of the latter. Some ADR programs do not fit neatly into either of these categories, of course, but all fall somewhere along the adjudicatory — participatory continuum.

Community-based diversion programs can teach new skills while strengthening juveniles' connections with their communities. Community-based diversion of the n on-ADR types may include mentoring programs, work programs, educational programs, skill-development programs, counseling programs, programs that work with families, etc. Any of these may provide juveniles with closer supervision and greater opportunities for sociali2ation and attachment to their communities than the juvenile probation offices alone could provide.


However, research has shown that, to be effective, such diversion programs must: (1) provide intensive, comprehensive and appropriate services (2) use well-trained and experienced staff; (3) be designed for specific purposes (e.g., collecting restitution, providing community service opportunities, addressing drug and alcohol abuse issues) and implemented according to their design; and (4) be carefully targeted at juveniles who can benefit from them.5

Developing good diversion policies require community involvement. Successful juvenile diversion processes and programs depend on the long-term involvement, commitment and support of key agencies (e.g., law enforcement, schools, social services) and community stakeholders (e.g., business leaders, faith community, local providers, and victims' organi2ations). It begins with the involvement of these groups in the diversion policy­making process. The goals and purposes of diversion must be understood by and agreeable to all stakeholders.6

Process considerations in developing diversion policies include:

—What diversion program options are currently available? What types of necessary programs are not available and must be developed?

—What age juveniles and what level of offenses will be eligible for diversion?

—Will parental participation be required?

— Who may make the decisions to refer juveniles to diversion programs? It is often the case that when diversion programs are available, law enforcement officers, school officials, parents, and social agencies will refer juveniles directly to them, bypassing juvenile court intake. Courts should approve guidelines for accepting referrals to prevent unreasonable intrusion into the lives of families.

— How long will diversion agreements last or will the cases be held open? Time limits depend on the conditions that must be met. Three to six months for completion is not uncommon.

—Can cases be re-filed in courts if juveniles do not comply with the terms of the agreements? The courts should determine whether the cases can be adjudicated on the original charges for noncom­pliance and should set time limits for re-filing petitions.


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Diversion processes must be fair to all parties. Juvenile courts and juvenile probation offices are responsible for assuring that diversion is fair to everyone involved. Fairness requires all of the following:7

Legitimacy. Diversion should be authorized by state statutes, court rules and/or policies. Juvenile court judges, prosecutors, and attorneys representing children should sanction the programs.

Training. All appropriate staff, service providers, and community volunteers should receive consis­tent training regarding the juvenile justice system, the purpose of diversion, the operational characteristics of diversion programs, the development of diversion agreements or contracts, and appropriate victim/witness issues.

Agreements. The conditions of diversion should be clearly understood and reduced to formal, written agreements between juveniles and specific diversion programs, clearly stating what juveniles need to do to complete agreements.

Monitoring. Formal processes for courts/juvenile probation officers reviewing and monitoring compliance with diversion agreements should be developed and implemented.

Incentives. Agreements must contain adequate incentives for completion, including no official records or findings of delinquency and destruction of records within a certain time after successful completion, assistance in enabling juveniles to avoid future offenses, and eligibility for future diversion consideration.

Sanctions. The consequences of failure to fulfill contract requirements should be clearly stated at the beginning of the processes as well, and appro­priate sanctions for failure to comply should be consistently enforced.


Referral protocols. Formal referral processes should be set up, including clearly articulated eligibility requirements, criteria for acceptance, and decision-making strategies for accepting referrals.

Voluntary participation. Participation in diver­sion should be voluntary for all parties in­volved— juveniles, the juveniles' families, community members, and victims.

Effective diversion requires continual oversight and follow-up.

Referrals to diversion programs should always be in writing, with responses requested. Juvenile courts must have ways not only of assuring that juveniles and their families report for diversion as required, but of keeping track of the appropriateness of referrals as well. This requires good communication and cooperation among intake offices and program staff

Every intake office should have written policies and procedures to aid in planning and monitoring diversion agreements and referrals as well as taking swift, certain actions against noncompliance.¦ Relevant to detention's purposes.

Intake offices should routinely examine their diversion policies and practices. Having clear goals and measurable objectives for diversion (both the overall process and the individual programs) will aid in this examination. For example, do given programs aim to strengthen adolescents' decision-making, problem-solving, or anger-management skills? Are they supposed to improve parent-child communication? Questionnaires aimed at determining progress toward these goals can be administered at the first sessions of the programs and after the programs have concluded. Comparing participants' scores before and after completing programs will provide information about changes in knowledge, attitudes, and behavior.

The results of these and similar monitoring efforts can be used to keep stakeholders informed of both successes and failures, and to guide ongoing reassessment of diversion policy, processes and programs.8


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Early Warning Truancy Program

In Opinion 89-386, dated December 11, 1989, the Judicial Inquiry Commission reaffirmed its earlier opinion that a juvenile court judge should have NO participation in the actual carrying out of an early warning truancy program because this participation would cast doubt on the judge's ability to decide a particular case in which the judge participated impartially.

The Judicial Inquiry Commission also opined that "[a] judge should not participate directly in any early warning case unless court proceedings have been formally initiated and the authority of the Court has been invoked."

However, it appears that if the early warning truancy program is part of an informal adjustment process before a juvenile petition is filed, the juvenile court judge CAN be involved. In Opinion 90-397, dated April 3, 1990, the Judicial Inquiry Commission advised that a juvenile court judge may participate in an informal adjustment process and for the participation of the judge in that process. Note: Effective August 1, 1990, the Supreme Court of Alabama amended Rule 15, Alabama Rules of Juvenile Procedure, to provide that informal adjustment shall include counseling and advising the child and his parents or custodian by the intake officer and other appropriate persons, who may include the judge of the juvenile court.


1 Kurlychek, M., Torbet, P., and Boznski, M. (August 1999). "Focus on Accountability: Best Practices for Juvenile Court and Probation." JAIBG Bulletin, Washington, DC: Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention. 2 Puzzanchera, O, Stahl, A., Finnegan, T., Snyder, H., Poole, R., and Tiemey, N. (2002). Juvenile Court Statistics 1998 (Forthcoming). Washington, DC: Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention. 3 Snyder, H., and Sickmund, M (1999). Juvenile Offenders and Victims: 1999 National Report. Washington DC: Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention. 5 Dryfoos, J. (1990). Adolescents at Risk: Prevalence and Prevention. New York, NY: Oxford University Press. 6 Russell, S., Wood, S, and Domeier, S. (1999) Establishing Juvenile Division in Your Community. Available from University of Nebraska Cooperative Extension online at http:// 7 National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges, supra, n.4. 8 Russell et al., supra, n. 6.

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         In this chapter, the following topics will be

Juvenile probation officers need a clear understanding of the purposes and place of secure detention in the juvenile justice system.

It is important that they recogni2e the value and purposes of detention and understand how detention practices should be related to larger juvenile justice goals. It is also vital that they acknowledge detention personnel as valuable and respected colleagues, engaged in the pursuit of those same goals. Throughout this chapter, the following principles should be borne in mind:

— Secure detention and detention alternatives are essential components of the juvenile justice system, integral to a complete continuum of local supervision and custody options for juveniles who have cases filed in court.

— Detention options must be short-term and appro­priate to the levels of risk posed by juveniles.

— Detention services must be designed to safeguard communities and/or ensure juveniles' appearance at subsequent hearings.

— Detention services must be consistent with the more specific goals of the juvenile justice system— community protection, offender accountability, and practical rehabilitation.

detention is the temporary safe custody of juveniles who are accused of conducted subject to the jurisdiction of the court who require a restricted environment for their own or the community's protection while pending legal action.

detention includes or provides for a system of clinical observation and assessment that complements the helpful services


This definition of secure detention features the following seven essential characteristics ":

¦      Temporary Custody. "Detention care" is defined as "[t]he temporary care of delinquent children or children alleged to be delinquent in secure custody pending court disposition or transfer to a residential facility or further care of a child adjudicated a delinquent." [Section 12-15-1(11), Ala. Code 1975]

¦      Safe Custody. This concept implies a safe and humane environment with programming and staffing to ensure the physical and psychological safely of detained juveniles.

¦      Restricted Environment. Degrees of restriction traditionally include maximum, medium, and minimum security or custody.

¦      Community Protection. In addition to the factors listed above, courts have legitimate rights to detain juveniles for the purposes of preventing further serious and/or violent delin­quent behaviors.

¦      Pending Legal Action. This includes time spent awaiting hearings, dispositions, placements, or return to previous placements.

¦      Helpful Services. Services should be available to help resolve a host of problems commonly facing detained juveniles. (However, juveniles should never be unnecessarily detained solely in order to receive these services.)

¦      Clinical Observation and Assessment. The
controlled environment of juvenile detention is often a time of intense observations and assessments in order to enhance decision-making capabilities. Competent clinical services are provided by properly credentialed individuals who coordinate and conduct the observation and assessment process.


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Definition of "Shelter Care" "Shelter care" is defined as "[t]he temporary care of children in group homes, foster care, or other nonpenal facilities." [Section 12-15-1(25), Ala. Code 1975]

Procedure if Children are Taken Into Custody to Detention or Shelter Care and Not Released When children are not released from detention or shelter care petitions shall be filed and shelter care hearings held within 72 hours, Saturdays, Sundays, and holidays included, to determine whether continued detention or shelter care is required. [Section 12-15-60(a), Ala. Code 1975]

Issuance of Notices of Detention or Shelter Care Hearings Notices of detention or shelter care hearings (oral or written, stating the times, places, and purposes of the hearings and the rights to counsel) must be given to the following persons:

(1) the parents, guardians, or custodians, if any of them are found; and (2) children, if children are over the age of 12 years; [Section 12-15-60(b), Ala. Code 1975].

In opinion 92-324, issued 6/11/92, to former Circuit Judge Paul S. Conger, Jr., 6th Judicial Circuit, the Attorney General opined that notice of the 72-hour hearing must be given to both parents.

If a child is not released to the parent or guardian pursuant to Section 12-15-58, Ala. Code 1975, then the notice of a detention care hearing, either oral or written, given pursuant to Section 12-15-60(b), Ala. Code 1975, may include notice by the court that the parent or guardian of his or her rights pursuant to Ala. Code 1975, 12-15-60(c), then the judge, in open court, may inform the parent or guardian that the parent or guardian may be made a party to the juvenile proceedings and inform the parent or guardian of his or her rights. [Rule 31(E), Ala. RJuv.P.]

Appointment of Counsel-Guardians Ad Litem

A "guardian at litem" is defined as [a] licensed attorney appointed by a court to defend or represent a child in any action to which such child may be a party. [Section 12-15-1(12), Ala. Code 1975]

Courts, at any stages of juvenile proceedings, may appoint guardians ad litem for children who are parties to the proceedings if children have no parents, guardians, or custodians appearing on the children's behalf or if the parents, guardians, or custodians' interests conflict with those of the children. Parties to the proceedings or the parties' employees or representatives shall not be appointed guardians ad litem. [Section 12-15-8(a), Ala. Code 1975]

In addition, courts must appoint counsel for children when there are adverse interests between the parents and children or where the parents are unmarried minors; or are married, have been married, and are under the age of 18 years; or when counsel is otherwise required in the interests of justice. [Section 12-15-63(b), Ala. Code 1975]

Attorneys for Parents, Guardians, or Custodians At the beginning of detention or shelter care hearings, courts must advise the parties of their rights to counsel and must appoint counsel if parties cannot afford it [Section 12-15-60(c)]. It is the duty of the appointed counsel, as officers of the courts and as members of the bars, to represent and assist the parties to the best of his or her abilities. [Sections 12-15-63(b), 15-12-21(c)]

Appearance of Counsel Counsel must enter his or her appearance in all proceedings with the clerks of the court or by appearing personally at a court hearing and advising the courts that he or she is representing a party. Once an appearance is entered, counsel shall receive copies of all notices required by statute or rule to be given to parties. If attorneys received notices for the parties, unless the courts order otherwise, the parties need not receive notices. Counsel must not withdraw from a case without consent of the courts. [Rule 14, Ala.R.Juv.P.]

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Contents of Petitions

At detention or shelter care hearings, the parties shall be informed of the contents of petitions, the courts shall: (1) verify if children were previously convicted or adjudicated youthful offenders pursuant to Section 12-15-34(j); or (2) rule on any motions of prosecutors requesting courts to transfer children for criminal prosecution. Courts shall not accept pleas of guilt or admissions to the allegations of petitions in any cases in which children will be transferred for prosecution as adults, either by grants of the prosecutors' motions to transfer or pursuant to Section 12-15-34Q. [See also Section 12-15-60(c)]


All relevant and material evidence, albeit not competent, may be admitted to aid the court in determining whether there is a need for detention or shelter care. [Section 12-15-60(d), Ala. Code 1975]

Rehearing on Detention or Shelter Care

If the child is not released and no parent, guardian, or custodian has been notified and did not appear or waived appearance at the hearing, upon the filing of an affidavit stating these facts, there must be a rehearing on detention care within 24 hours, Saturdays, Sundays, and holidays included. [Section 12-15-60(e), Ala. Code 1975]

Detention is a process, not a place.

If detention is viewed simply as buildings with certain numbers of beds and locks on doors, it might accommodate almost anybody. The better view is that detention is a process, not buildings.2

As will be seen below, secure detention facilities are also just one part of a continuum of supervision/ custody options. This continuum might include staff-secure congregate care facilities, individual foster care, day or evening reporting centers, electronic monitoring, home detention, intensive tracking, and ordinary community supervision.

Initial detention decision-making is often entrusted to intake officers.

When juveniles are taken to detention facilities at arrest, intake officers should determine whether the alleged facts are legally sufficient, apply detention criteria, and decide whether to detain, release, or opt for some other alternatives to detention. If decisions are made to detain juveniles, intake officers should specify the charges, the reasons for detention, the reasons why release was not an option, the alternatives to detention that were explored, and the recommendations of intake officers concerning interim status. A 72-hour hearing is required to extend detention. §12-15-60(a), Ala. Code 1975.

While Alabama is silent on the question of the necessity for face-to-face interviews with juveniles, it is best practice for juvenile probation officers to conduct interviews consistent with their local policy.

Release, delivery to detention or shelter care facility, medical facility, etc., of children taken into custody generally Section 12-15-58, Ala. Code 1975.

(a)  A person taking a child into custody shall, with all possible speed, and in accordance with this chapter and the rules of court pursuant thereto:

(1) Release the child to the child's parents, guardian, custodian or other suitable person able and willing to provide supervision and care for the child and issue oral counsel and warning as may be appropriate.
(2) Release the child to the child's parents, guardian or custodian upon their promise to bring the child before the court when requested, unless the child's placement in detention or shelter care appears required.

(3) Bring the child, if not released, to the intake office of probation services or deliver the child to a place of detention or shelter care designated by the court and, in the most expeditious manner possible, give notice of the action taken, together with a statement of the reasons for taking the child into custody, in writing to the intake office, to the court and to the parent, guardian or other custodian of the child and, in the case of dependency, to the Department of Human Resources, except in the case of a juvenile being taken into custody for a violation of a municipal curfew ordinance. In curfew violation cases, if the child is not released, the child may be taken to a facility, which has been previously approved by the court as a curfew detention facility. A child taken to a curfew detention facility shall be released within eight hours.

(b) Whenever a child, taken into custody pursuant to this chapter, is brought to a shelter or other care facility established or approved by the Department of Human Resources or the Department of Youth Services or to the intake office, the person in charge of the intake office or the representative of the Department of Human Resources, prior to admitting the child for care, shall review the need for detention or shelter care and shall release the child unless detention or shelter care is required under Section 12-15-59 or has been ordered by the court.

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(c) A person taking a child into custody pursuant to subdivisions (1) and (7) of Section 12-15-56 shall bring the child to the place of detention or shelter care or to the intake office which shall thereupon proceed in accordance with this chapter.

(d) A person taking a child into custody pursuant to subdivision (4) of Section 12-15-56 shall bring the child to a medical or mental health facility designated by the court if the child is believed to be suffering from a serious mental health condition, illness, or injury which requires either prompt treatment or prompt diagnosis for the child's welfare or for evidentiary purposes, and, in the most expeditious manner possible, give notice of the action taken together with a statement of taking the child into custody in writing to the court, the parents, guardian or other custodian and to the intake office and to the Department of Human Resources in the case of a dependency allegation.

Authority and criteria for continuation of detention or shelter care of children taken into custody, Section 12-15-59, Ala. Code 1975. (a) Unless otherwise ordered by the court pursuant to the provisions of this chapter, a child lawfully taken into custody as an allegedly dependent or delinquent child or a child in need of supervision shall immediately be released, upon the ascertainment of the necessary facts, to the care, custody and control of such child's parent, guardian, custodian or other suitable person able and willing to provide supervision and care for such child, except in situations where:

(1) The child has no parent, guardian, custodian or other suitable person able and willing to provide supervision and care for such child;

(2) The release of the child would present a clear and substantial threat of a serious nature to the person or property of others where the child is alleged to be delinquent;

(3) The release of such child would present a serious threat of substantial harm to such child; or

(4) The child has a history of failing to appear for hearings before the court.

(b) The criteria for continuing the child in detention or shelter or other care as set forth in subsection (a) of this section shall govern the decisions of all persons involved in determining whether the continued detention or shelter care is warranted pending court disposition and such criteria shall be supported by clear and convincing evidence in support of the decision not to release the child.

While there may be agreements regarding the general purposes of detention that does not mean it is easy to make rational detention decisions. Besides clear goals, decision-makers need information that is relevant to detention decisions, adequate ranges of decision alternatives, and detailed, explicit guidelines for using the information to choose among the alternatives.

Consistent, reliable decision-making guidelines help to ensure that detention deci­sions serve detention goals. All detention decision-making should be structured by written guidelines that direct the decision-makers' attention to factors in the arrested juveniles or their backgrounds that bear on the risks that they will reoffend or fail to appear for subsequent hearings. Factors isolated by these decision-making guidelines should be:

¦ Relevant to detention's purposes. Factors (such as the need for assessments, the victims'wishes, etc.) that are unrelated to the legitimate purposes of detention should be disregarded.

¦ Easily measured. Guidelines should focus decision-makers on specific, ascertainable conduct or background characteristics (delinquency history, current offenses, uses of weapons, etc.), not psychological slates, attitudes, or personality traits.3

¦ Correlated with risk. The factors chosen should have been shown to be correlated with actual risk levels in the local communities. That is, failure-to appear and rearrest data for a sample of cases should be analy2ed, in order to determine whether factors included in the guidelines are genuinely associated with these risks.

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Although detention is primarily justified as a community protection measure, a 1995 census of detention facilities revealed that most detainees were being held for very short periods in connection with nonviolent and often minor offenses, and substantial minorities were accused only of status offenses. Historically, it is clear that juveniles have often been detained for reasons having nothing to do with the risk of reoffending or absconding. Even when detention decisions have focused on those risks, they have all too often been subjective, standardless, "seat-of-the-pants" judgments of the kind that are inherently unreliable, inconsistent, and subject to bias.

Two important consequences of this failure to control detention admissions, critics say, have been severe crowding and minority overrepresentation in detention facilities.

Overcrowded detention facilities can be unhealthy, dangerous, and even chaotic places, with high operating costs, overtaxed staff, inadequate services, and heightened risks of violence and suicide among detainees. However, in 1995 overcrowding in public detention centers were the norm rather than the exception: 62% of publicly held juveniles were in facilities operating above their rated capacities.

¦ Weighted, but flexible. For the sake of consistency and predictability, the relevant variables should have pre- as signed weighted values, enabling intake officers to "score" juveniles' risk level numerically. However, the process should not be entirely mechanical—there should be some room for the exercise of discretion, either through the use of aggravating and mitigating factors or admini s trative overrides.

¦ Subject to ongoing review. There is no reason to stick with factors that have not worked. The beauty of a standardi2ed, objective detention screening process is that—unlike the seat-of-the pants approach—it is capable of continual refinement and improvement, based on actual rearrest and failure-to-appear outcomes.

Detention screening generally focuses on a handful of significant facts.

¦ Present offenses. Whether they are felonies (or sometimes particular grades of felonies), involved the use of firearms, involved the overt threats of physical harm to others, resulted in harm to the victims that required medical attention, etc.

In addition, a disproportionate number of them were minorities. In 1996, secure detention was nearly twice as likely in cases involving black juveniles as in cases involving whites, even after controlling for the type o f o f f en s e ch arge d. A s a re suit, blac k j uvenile s we re severely overrepresented in the detention caseload that year, accounting for 30% of the overall cases processed, but 45% of the detained cases.

Meaningful detention reform efforts target over­crowding and disproportionate minority confinement by providing decision-makers with specific detention criteria, expanding detention alternatives, cutting failure-to-appear rates, and expediting case processing, and reducing lengths of stay.

Sources: Orlando, F. (1999). Controlling the Front Gates: Effective Admissions Policies and Practices, Baltimore, MD: Annie E. Casey Foundation. Snyder, H., and Sickmund, M. (1999). Juvenile Offenders and Victims; 1999 National Report Washington, DC: Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention.


1 Aftermath. Whether juveniles were found to be carrying weapons, involved police in high-speed chases, threatened victims, attempted to intimidate witnesses, etc.

1 Court history. The number of prior referrals, adjudications, and commitments, sometimes weighted differently according to the levels of seriousness of the offenses involved, whether or not they were recent, etc.

1 Current status. Whether or not juveniles are currently on probation, whether there are other cases pending, outstanding warrants, charges pending in other jurisdictions, etc.

1 Flight/re offense records. Records of law viola­tions while past charges were pending, previous failures to appear, escapes from placement, arrests while on furlough or subject to home detention, etc.


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Custody Restrictions Under the Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act of 1974,
Alabama is currently in full compliance with the core requirements of the Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act of 2002.

In order to receive their full share of federal formula grants funding, all states, including Alabama, must agree to comply with four special requirements relating to the detention and custody of juveniles:

Deinstitutionalization of status offenders (DSO).* Juveniles who are charged with acts that would not be crimes if committed by adults—running away, truancy, underage drinking, etc.—must not be held in secure detention or correctional facilities.

Sight and sound separation. ** Whether awaiting trial or already adjudicated, juveniles must not be detained anywhere where they will be able to see or speak with incarcerated adults. This requirement does not rule out time-phased use of nonresidential areas by juveniles and adults, and is not violated by brief, accidental contact in such areas.

Jail and lockup removal.*** Unless they are being tried as adults, juveniles generally must not be detained in adult jails or lockups, except for brief periods while other arrangements are being made.

Disproportionate minority contact. States must determine the extent to which minorities are overrepresented in confinement settings and take action to address the problem.

Source: Snyder, H., and Sickmund, M. (1999). Offenders and Victims: 1999 National Report. Washington, DC: Office of ustice
*DSO: In Alabama, a minor possession (MIP) violation is considered to be a delinquent offense. However, MIP is considered to be a status offense by federal definition. Therefore, the use of detention for MIPs is a violation of federal regulations. Other examples of status offenses include, but are not limited to: violations of curfew and violations of the offense of DUI with a blood alcohol content of .02 to .08 with the offender being under the age of 18. The last offense is considered a status offense for purposes of juvenile detention standards even though Alabama law considers it to be a delinquent act. There is an exception to this regulation that allows for the holding of an accused status offender in detention if the Valid Court Order (VCO) process is followed. This process allows for juveniles who have committed status offenses to be held if the court makes a specific finding that such an action is in the best interest of the juvenile in question. The VCO process is a separate proceeding from general court activities and should not be implemented without consultation from resource persons identified below.

**Sight and Sound Separation: The term refers to the moving of adults out of an area when juveniles are brought in or moving juveniles out of an area when adults are brought into the facility.

***Jail and Lockup Removal: Federal regulations allow a 6-hour (excluding transportation time) exception to this requirement for the purpose of notification and processing. If the juveniles are held for any period of time for these purposes, the sight and sound regulations must be applied.

Resource Persons: Cary McMillan,, 334-954-5034 & Steve Wooten, 334-462-2652.


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In jurisdictions with multiple detention/shelter/ alternative programs, detention assessments maybe more complicated processes than in jurisdictions that can only choose between detaining and releasing. Sometimes, two assessment instruments must be used. One simply divides arrested juveniles into general risk categories (e.g. low, moderate, and high). For juveniles who score in the moderate-risk range, second assessment instruments help determine which alternatives to detention are appropriate.

Temporary protective custody

Police officers, law enforcement officers, or State or county DHR employees may take children into protective custody, or persons in charge of hospitals or similar institutions or physicians treating children may keep the children in their custody, without the consent of the parents, guardians, custodians, or other persons responsible for the children's care, if children are determined to be in imminent danger. At this time, juvenile or family courts and the DHR are notified of this protective custody, which shall not exceed 72 hours, so that "child-protective" proceedings maybe initiated. [Section 26-14-6, Ala. Code, 1975]

Runaway children from residential shelter or other care facilities

Law enforcement officer may take children into custody if officers have reasonable ground to believe that children have run away from residential shelter or other care facilities. [Section 12-15-56(3), Ala. Code 1975]

Children who are ill/injured or in danger

If law enforcement officers have reasonable grounds to believe that children are suffering from illnesses or injuries or are in immediate danger from the children's surroundings AND that the children's removal is necessary for the protection of the health and safely of the children, the officers should take the children to a medical or mental health facilities designated by the courts if the children are believed to be suffering from serious mental health condition, illnesses, or injuries which requires either prompt treatment or prompt diagnosis for the child's welfare or for evidentiary purposes; or courts may order the same. [Sections 12-15-56(4), 12-15-56(8) and 12-15-58(d), Ala. Code 1975]


Runaway children from parents/guardians
Law enforcement officers may take children into custody if officers have reasonable grounds to believe that children have run away from their parents, guardians, or other custodians. [Section 12-15-56(5), Ala. Code 1975]
Children have no parents, guardians, custodians
If law enforcement officers have reasonable grounds to believe that children have no parents, guardians, custodians, or other suitable persons willing and able to provide supervision and care for the children, officers may take the children into custody. [Section 12-15-56(6), Ala. Code 1975]
Violation of terms of protective supervision
Representatives of the DHR, with approval of the courts, may take into custody and place in shelter care dependent children under the supervision of representatives if representatives have reasonable cause to believe that children have violated the terms of their protective supervision. Once the representatives take children into their custody, they must proceed as provided in Section 12-15-58 12-15-7(b) and (c), Ala. Code 1975].
Pursuant to court orders
After petitions alleging the dependency of children are filed in court, if it appears from affidavits or sworn statements presented to the courts that the children need to be placed in shelter or other care, courts may endorse upon the summonses, issued with copies of the petitions, that officers serving the summonses must take children into custody and take children to the shelter or other care facilities designated by the courts. [Sections 12-15-53(a), (b) (d) and 12-15-56(1), Ala. Code 1975]
Note: In Alabama, Section 12-15-53, particularly subsection (d), is used as authority for a "pick-up order" to be issued by courts to allow law enforcement officers or DHR employees to take children into custody. In addition, if parents, guardians, or other custodians fail, when required, to bring children before the courts, the courts may issue orders directing that the children be taken into custody and brought before the courts. [Sections 12-15-57 and 12-15-56(1), Ala. Code 1975]
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Testifying Tips
Issuance and service of summonses generally; endorsements upon summonses; waiver of service of summonses [Section 12-15-53(d), Ala. Code 1975]

If it appears from an affidavit or sworn statement presented to the court that the child needs to be placed in detention or shelter or other care, the court may endorse upon the summons an order that an officer serving the summons shall at once take the child into custody and take the child to the place of detention or shelter or other care designated by the court. In any case where a child is alleged to be delinquent for possessing a pistol, short-barreled rifle, or short-barreled shotgun, the child shall be detained in a detention facility until the hearing required by Section 12-15-60. "Pistol" as used in this section is defined in Section 13A-11-70(1). "Short-barreled rifle and short-barreled shotgun" as used in this section are defined in Section 13A-11-62.

Procedures for persons taking children into custody

If one of the above situations occurs, it may be determined that the children should not be released to the parents, guardians, or custodians, but instead should be placed in detention or shelter care. The persons may take the children to one of the following places "with all possible speed":

(l)The intake office of probation services; or

(2)  A detention or shelter care facility designated by the court; or (3)   A medical or mental health facility if a child is taken into custody pursuant to 12-15-56(4). Persons taking children into custody expeditiously must give written notice of the action, together with a statement of reasons for taking the children into custody, to the intake offices; the courts; the parents, guardians, or custodians; and the DHR [Sections 12-15-58(a)(3); and 12-15-58(d), Ala. Code 1975].

Rule 11, ARJP, covers the rights of children when taken into custody; the rights of children before being questioned while in custody; the information intake office or detention or shelter care facility personnel must give to children brought to their attention; the rights of a children upon detention in intake offices of detention or shelter care facilities; among other rights. It appears that this Rule is intended for children alleged to be delinquent and not dependent.


Rule 9(A), ARJP, provides that "[e]ach juvenile court shall by order designate the detention or shelter care facility or facilities to which children shall be delivered when taken into custody. In districts where such shelter care facilities are unavailable for dependent children, the order shall specify that dependent children shall be brought to the Department of Human Resources for placement in licensed or approved foster homes. Subsection (B) of this Rule provides that copies of the order shall be made available to all law enforcement agencies within the territorial jurisdiction of the court.
Procedure for persons in intake offices, shelter or other care facilities
Whenever children are taken into custody and is taken to the intake offices of detention facilities, the persons in charge of the intake offices or the representatives of the DHR, prior to admitting the children into care, must review the need for detention or shelter care and shall release the children unless detention or shelter care is required pursuant to Section 12-15-59 or has been ordered by courts pursuant to Section 12-15-58(b).
Detention or shelter care is required in the following situations:
"(1) The child has no parent, guardian, custodian or othersuitable person able and willing to provide supervision
and care for such child;
"(2) The release of the child would present a clear andsubstantial threat of a serious nature to the person or properly of others where the child is alleged to be delinquent;
"(3) The release of such child would present a serious threat of substantial harm to such child; or
"(4) The child has a history of failing to appear for
hearings before the court." Section 12-15-59 (a), Ala.
Code 1975.
Section 12-15-59 (b) provides that "[t]he criteria for continuing the child in detention or shelter or other care as set forth in subsection (a) of this section shall govern the decisions of all persons involved in determining whether the continued detention or shelter care is warranted pending court disposition and such criteria shall be supported by clear and convincing evidence in support of the decision not to release the child."

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Alternatives to Secure Detention

The following outlines ranges of alternatives to secure custody that may be considered unless secure detention appears required by Section 12-15-59, Ala. Code 1975.

Several of these alternatives may not be expressly provided in the law, so it is advisable that if they are not provided by law, court orders be obtained to authorize them, either prior to or after adjudication.

Prior to adjudication, pursuant to Section 12-15-62(a), Ala. Code 1975, when courts find that children's full-time detention care is not required, courts shall order their release and may impose certain conditions on the release. In addition, Section 12-15-62(b), Ala. Code 1975, provides that orders releasing children maybe amended to impose additional or different conditions of release or to return children to custody for failure to conform to the conditions originally imposed.

After adjudications, at disposition stages, it appears that courts may impose of one of the following alternatives to secure detention pursuant to their authority in Section 12-15-71(c) (4), Ala. Code 1975, which allow courts to "[m]ake any other order as the court in its discretion shall deem to be for the welfare and best interests of the child,..."

In keeping with best practices and the commitment to place juveniles in the least restrictive environments, these alternatives are placed on a continuum from least (outright release) to most (secure detention) secure.

The purpose of exploring secure detention alternatives is to assist persons making detention decisions in: 1) exploring the ranges of placement options for children in custody; 2) identifying the most appropriate placement options for each individual child; and 3) identifying gaps in the service continuum.
¦      Outright Release. Children are returned to their own homes. Conduct is regulated by the parents, guardians, custodians, or other proper or suitable persons, subject to any conditions of release from custody as maybe prescribed. This is the best response for younger juveniles. See Sections 12-15-62(a) (1) and 12-15-71 (c) (1), Ala. Code 1975.

¦      Supervised at Home. The children return home and are placed on Home Detention Contracts. Home Detention Contracts regulate behavior and parents must be willing to support the successful implementation of the contract conditions. Limited supervision is provided by trained personnel.

Supervised in Host Homes. Host Homes are utilized in conjunction with Home Detention Contracts. Supervision in Host Homes is for short periods of time pending placement back home or an appropriate alternative. Host Homes are particularly effective in providing parents and children with a necessary time out. Many communities have trained and supportive volunteers in caring for children in their homes for an evening or two.

Holdover Shelter Programs (Attendant Care).

Temporary, local alternatives for children who do not need secure detention but are in need of places to stay until other arrangements for their care can be made. These shelter options allow for placement of children in settings that are more appropriate than temporary custody at law enforcement facilities. Paid staff or volunteers can be utilized to supervise children. Some examples of successful holdover shelter locations include: fire stations, hospitals or nursing homes, churches or synagogues, hotels or motel units, and family or community resource centers.

Tracking and/or Electronic Monitoring. This option provides the supervision and monitoring necessary to allow children to return home. Designated staff contact and track children on a regular basis to assure compliance with conditionsofrelease. Electronic monitoring combines personal supervision with electronic transmitters to provide adequate structure and supervision.

Intensive Foster Care. Children are placed in homes and supervised by specially trained foster parents. Children are placed under contracts that specifically define the parameters of their behavior and are under continual supervision by foster parents

Secure Detention. These secure placement beds should be restricted to dangerous children — children for which other placement alternatives are, as determined by appropriate assessments, clearly inappropriate. This alternative is the most expensive and not appropriate for younger juveniles.


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Other community-based detention

Alcohol Awareness Programs. Classes for first-time alcohol violators in place of going through the juvenile system. Classes are not offered in DUI cases and parents must attend one class with their children.

Community Service. Volunteers work for designated numbers of hours performed with appropriate supervision and appropriate to the charges and the interests of children.

Day and Evening Reporting Centers.

Nonresidential programs that require juveniles to report daily activities to case managers. This enhanced supervision option may provide services such as tutoring, life skills services, job training and referrals, and counseling.

Truancy Prevention is designed to promote regular school attendance through one or more strategies including an increase in parental involvement, the participation of law enforcement, the use of mentors, court alternatives, or other related strategies.


6. Family/Parenting Attributes:

– Parent-child relationships/involvement, resources,
strengths/skills, ties with communities

– Marital histories

– Educational and employment histories

– Substance abuse, mental health issues

– Criminal histories, including domestic
violence disturbances

– Control and supervision, including knowledge of
juveniles’ friends and activities

– Discipline styles, limit-setting, rules enforcement

– Sense of responsibility for juveniles’ behavior

– Home and neighborhood conditions

– Influences and social pressures of neighborhoods

7. Health Histories:

– Physical health, serious illnesses, accidents,
disabilities, or medications

– Mental health, including results of any screening
or clinical evaluations

– Controlled substance use, including results of any
drug tests, screens, or clinical assessments,
treatment experiences and attitudes toward recovery

Working With Detention Staff

Juvenile probation officers and juvenile detention center staff need to be on the same team. For one thing, each has access to vital information that the other needs.

Detention staff can be remarkable sources of insight and information for juvenile probation officers. Even though they may work with detained juveniles only for short periods of time, their interactions can be very intense and very revealing. Experienced detention workers establish relationships quickly with detained juveniles, who confide in them regarding important issues and concerns in their lives. The information and views of detention staff can prove invaluable in the assessment and case planning process.

Likewise, detention staff members need whatever information juvenile probation officers have that could help them to protect detainees from harm, especially physical and sexual assaults and suicide. In extreme cases—for example, in litigation resulting from suicides of detained juveniles—juvenile probation officers' personal liability may depend on the extent to which he or she communicated relevant social, legal, psychological, and anecdotal information to detention staff at the time of admission.

Detention staff members also need to understand the program of intervention that juvenile probation officers are planning for detained juveniles, so that they can reinforce the plans and their behavioral expectations with juveniles while they are in deten­tion.

For all of these reasons, juvenile probation officers should make it a point to: (1) treat detention staff members with respect; (2) acknowledge the importance of their work and the value of their insights into the juveniles with whom they work; (3) share information with them; and (4) solicit information and opinions in return.


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While the costs of detention alternative programs vary a great deal, any of them is likely to be considerably cheaper than secure beds in locked facilities, and some can effectively achieve the goals of secure detention at a tiny fraction of its cost. Juvenile probation offices developing alternatives to detention should be wary of "widening the net" of detention. The idea is to reduce reliance on secure detention, not simply sweep up additional juveniles—who would otherwise have been released pending hearings—into detention alternatives.

The Alabama Department of Youth Services licenses the operation of all (short term, long term, stand alone and collocated with adult jail) juvenile detention facilities. Contact information for the Licensing and Standards Division of Department of Youth Services is as follows:

Address: 85 Bagby Dr., Suite 205

Homewood, AL 35209

Administrator: Robert Matthews, 205-942-6619, email
robert.matthews @dys.
South Alabama Coordinator: Bertha BlackwelL 334-774-
North Alabama Coordinator: Patrick Henry, 256-546-

Endnotes. 1 Roush, D. (1996). Desktop Guide to Good Juvenile Detention Practice, East Lansing, MI: National Juvenile Detention Association. 2 Dunlap, E., and Roush, D. (Spring 1995). "Juvenile Detention as Process and Place." Juvenile Family Court Journal 46. Reno, NV: National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges. 3 Mulvey, E., and Saunders, J. (June 1982) 'Juvenile Detention Criteria: State of the Art & Guidelines for Change.1 Justice Abstracts 14 (2).


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In this chapter, the following topics will be covered:
  • predisposition investigation and assessment

  • factors that should govern disposition

  • how to write useful predisposition

  • how to testify effectively in disposition

Juvenile courts rely on juvenile probation officers to investigate and assess juveniles adjudicated delinquent and recommend appropriate dispositions.

Once juveniles have been found to be delinquent, judges must make decisions about proper dispositions. Juvenile probation officers have a good deal of influence over these decisions. Juvenile probation officers conduct predisposition investigations for courts, assembling information about juveniles into broad pictures that are both detailed and objective. Taking into account and balancing the interests of juveniles, victims, and communities, juvenile probation officers then make appraisals of the dispositional alternatives available and recommend appropriate sanctions, interventions, and services. The written report that summarizes all these matters is submitted to the court and generally forms the basis for disposition decision-making. Indeed, one study concluded that juvenile court judges follow juvenile probation officers’ recommendations more than 90% of the time.

Alabama law allows for predisposition studies and reports to be prepared by juvenile probation officers as follows:

“Ordering and preparation of predisposition study and report concerning child, family, etc.; ordering, conduct and certification of findings of physical or mental examination of child prior to hearing on petition generally; examination of parent or custodian after hearing where ability to care for or supervise child in issue Section 12-15-69, Ala. Code 1975.

(a) After a petition alleging delinquency, in need of supervision or dependency has been filed, the court may direct that a predisposition study and report to the court be made by probation services where the petition alleges that the child is delinquent or in need of supervision or by the Department of Human Resources when the petition alleges that the child is dependent concerning the child, his family, his environment and other matters relevant to the need for treatment or disposition of the case.”

     Good Predisposition Investigations and
     Reporting Practices Require:

  • Consensus on juvenile system goals

  • Focus on information relevant to decisions

  • Training in uniformly and consistently collecting

    the information
  • Time and manpower to do jobs

  • Communication and cooperation between courts/
    juvenile probation officers and informationsource
    agencies (schools, police, mental health,
    drug and alcohol)

  • Criteria/guidelines for using the information

  • Format for displaying, summarizing, and quantifying

    the information
  • Ongoing oversight that monitors the aggregate
    outcomes of the decision-making process and
    gauges its effectiveness.

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        In addition, the following duties of juvenile
                 probation officers relate to the
                       preparation of reports:

Appointment, terms of office, etc., of probation officers; designation of chief probation officer, etc.; duties of probation officers generally; powers of probation officers and representatives of Department of Human Resources as to taking into custody and placing in shelter or detention care of children generally; procedure upon taking into custody of child by probation officer or representative of Department of Human Resources generally. [Section 12-15-7(a)(1)-(6), Ala. Code 1975]

(Subject to the satisfaction of contingencies specified in Act 98-392)

(a) For the purpose of carrying out the objectives and purposes of this chapter and subject to the limitations of this chapter or imposed by the court, a probation officer shall perform all of the following duties:

(1) Make investigations, reports, and recommendations to the juvenile court.

(2) Receive and examine complaints and allegations of delinquency, in need of supervision, or dependency of a child for the purpose of considering the commencement of proceedings under this chapter.

(3) Refer to the Department of Human Resources for investigations, reports, and recommendations those complaints and allegations of dependency or other appropriate matters and may refer to the Department of Human Resources for investigations, reports, and recommendations those complaints on children in need of supervision.

(4) Supervise and assist a child placed on probation or in his or her protective supervision or aftercare by order of the court or other authority of law.

(5) Make appropriate referrals to other private or public agencies of the community if their assistance appears to be needed or desirable.

(6) Make predisposition studies and submit reports and recommendations to the court as required by this chapter, except as provided in subdivision (3) of this subsection.

             The general disposition section for children
       adjudicated delinquent or in need of supervision to
           which reports may be requested is as follows:

Disposition of dependent children, delinquent children, multiple needs children, or children in need of supervision generally; evaluative role of children's services facilitation team; placement in alternative school Section 12-15-71(c), Ala. Code 1975.

(c) If a child is found to be delinquent or in need of supervision, the court may make any of the following orders or dispositions for the child's supervision, care, and rehabilitation:

(1) Permit the child to remain with the parents, guardian, or other custodian of the child, subject to the conditions and limitations the court may prescribe.

(2) Place the child on probation under conditions and limitations the court may prescribe.

(3) Transfer legal custody to any of the following:

       a. The Department of Youth Services, with or
       without a commitment order to a specific

       b. In the case of a child in need of supervision,
       the Department of Youth Services, or the
       Department of Human Resources.

       c. A local, public, or private agency, organization,
       or facility willing and able to assume the
       education, care, and maintenance of the child and
       which is licensed or otherwise authorized by law
       to receive and provide care for children.

       d. A relative or other individual who, after study
       by the probation services, is found by the court to
       be qualified to receive and care for the child.

(4) Make any other order as the court in its discretion shall deem to be for the welfare and best interests of the child, including random drug screens, assessment of fines not to exceed two hundred fifty dollars ($250), and restitution against the parent, guardian, or child, as the court deems appropriate. Costs for court-ordered drug screening may be ordered paid for by the state out of moneys appropriated as "court costs not otherwise provided for." Any costs for drug screening recouped by order of court for drug screening shall be paid to the State General Fund. Restitution against the parent, guardian, or child shall be governed by the same principles applicable in Article 4A of Chapter 18 of Title 15 (commencing at Section 15-18- 65).

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(5) Direct the parent or custodian of the child to perform such reasonable acts as are deemed necessary to promote the best interest of the child.

(6) In any case where a child is adjudicated delinquent for possessing a pistol, short-barreled rifle, or shortbarreled shotgun, any pistol, short-barreled rifle, or short-barreled shotgun possessed by that child is forfeited and shall be ordered to be destroyed by the court.”

This Chapter will discuss the timing, conduct, and purpose of predisposition investigations, general principles that should guide the choice of dispositions, and techniques for conveying disposition recommendations clearly, concisely, and effectively.

Juvenile probation offices should avoid conducting
wasteful, unnecessary, or redundant predisposition

Most cases referred to juvenile court intake offices will never require full-blown predisposition investigations. Obviously, both in order to save time and expense and to avoid unwarranted intrusions into the privacy of juveniles referred to intake offices, juvenile probation officers should focus their assessment efforts narrowly at the start of cases, gathering only the information that is necessary to make intake decisions, and reserving more extensive predisposition investigations for cases in which juveniles either admit the charges or have already been adjudicated. If predisposition investigations do prove necessary, they should expand and build upon the work done in previous intake assessments and lay firm foundations for case planning that will come later.

Unfortunately, not all juvenile courts allow sufficient time between adjudication and dispositional hearings to permit this orderly approach. Most standards-setting groups call for separate hearings on the two issues, for a variety of reasons. Nevertheless, in many jurisdictions, juvenile court judges will turn to the issue of disposition almost immediately after adjudicating juveniles delinquent—with perhaps only a brief recess to read the disposition reports. Accordingly, at least in those jurisdictions, investigations must be conducted and reports prepared before the outcome of adjudication hearings are known.

            The following goals have been established for
                          juvenile courts in Alabama
                    Section 12-15-1.1, Ala. Code 1975

(1) To preserve and strengthen the child's family whenever possible, including improvement of home environment.

(2) To remove the child from the custody of his or her parents only when it is judicially determined to be in his or her best interest or for the safety and protection of the public.

(3) To reunite a child with his or her parents as quickly and as safely as possible when the child has been removed from the custody of his or her parents.

(4) To secure for any child removed from parental custody the necessary treatment, care, guidance, and discipline to assist him or her in becoming a responsible productive member of society.

(5) To promote a continuum of services for children and their families from prevention to aftercare, considering wherever possible, prevention, diversion, and early intervention.

(6) To promote the use of community based alternatives as deterrents to acts of juvenile delinquency and as least restrictive dispositional alternatives.

(7) To hold a child found to be delinquent accountable for his or her actions to the extent of the child's age, education, mental and physical condition, background, and all other relevant factors and to provide a program of supervision, care, and rehabilitation, including restitution by the child to the victim of his or her delinquent acts.

(8) To achieve the foregoing goals in the least restrictive setting necessary, with a preference at all times for the preservation of the family and the integration of parental accountability and participation in treatment and counseling programs.

Judicial procedures through which these goals are
accomplished will assure the parties a fair hearing where
their constitutional and other statutory rights are
recognized and enforced.

This chapter shall be liberally construed to the end that
each child coming within the jurisdiction of the juvenile
court shall receive the care, guidance, and control,
preferably in his or her own home, necessary for the
welfare of the child and the best interest of the state.”

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      Predisposition investigations must focus on
      facts that are pertinent to the goals for the
      juvenile courts

Although the direction and scope of investigations will vary with the nature of the cases and the resources and dispositional alternatives available, all predisposition investigations should be designed to shed light, in addition to, or associated with, the goals established by statute.

  • Public protection. What levels of security or supervision for juveniles will be necessary in order to keep communities safe? Investigations should uncover facts relevant to immediate and long-term risks to public safety, as well as ways of managing those risks.
  • Accountability. What sanctions or consequences will be necessary in order to hold juveniles accountable for the offenses? Investigations must focus on the nature of the harm caused to communities and losses suffered by victims, the current attitudes of juveniles with regard to their responsibilities for these matters, and the steps that would be called for to repair the harm done, restore the losses, and reinforce and deepen the sense of responsibility.
  • Rehabilitation. What measures will enable juveniles to lead more law-abiding, pro-social lives? The investigations should assess juveniles’ current strengths and needs and explore possible ways to help them exit the system more capable of productive citizenship than when they entered.

These are general goals of disposition decision-making. Obviously, juvenile probation officers conducting predisposition investigations must be sure to gather whatever information is required to be considered under state statute, rule, or guidelines.

Obtaining basic documents, checking records,
conducting interviews, and making collateral
contacts, within legal limits, are standard
predisposition investigation techniques.

As noted above, predisposition investigations must start from the foundation of facts gathered at intake assessments. The “triage” information collected at that stage may have been assembled solely to inform intake decisions, but much of it—such as offense information, court history, victim input, etc.—will be useful for predisposition purposes as well.

                                       Victim Contact

Contacts with victims should be the responsibility of district attorneys’ offices or other independent parties not representing the interests of juveniles. Juvenile probation officers should refer victims to district attorneys to obtain documents, information regarding restitution collection, or answers to questions regarding their cases. If juvenile probation officers become involved with providing information to victims, these victim contacts should be provided pursuant to court orders.

In addition, predisposition investigations generally
involve the following steps:

      1. Obtaining copies of the following documents on

Note: It is important to adhere to the requirements of HIPPA and FERPA when applicable (see Appendix for an overview of these requirements).

            – birth certificates

            – social security cards

            – naturalization cards

            – health insurance or Medicaid cards

          – ALL Kids, (a low-cost, comprehensive healthcare
          coverage for children under age 19. Benefits include
          well child check-ups and immunizations, sick child
          doctor visits, prescriptions, vision and dental care, and
          much more.)

          – immunization records

2. Interviewing juveniles and their parents, legal guardians,
or legal custodians, in the homes for the purposes of:

          – Observing the juveniles’ home conditions
             and neighborhoods consistent with office
             safety policy.

          – Filling in gaps in information regarding
             events surrounding the offenses

          – Assessing family/parenting attributes

          – Determining where additional information can
             be obtained about juveniles and getting
             signed authorizations to release confidential

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3. Checking the following records for prior referrals and information on prior investigations, assessments, and treatment reports:
– Protective services records

– Police records

– Motor vehicle records (paying particular
attention to incidents involving alcohol or

– Court records

– Probation, parole, and institutional records

4. Contacting the following (if not already contacted at the filing of complaint by the district attorney):

– Current or last attended schools, requesting educational background information (attendance, behavior, performance) – Victims or victims’ families, requesting documentation of actual or estimated losses or damages, insurance coverage, and claims submitted – Additional contacts (arresting officer, prosecutor and/or petitioner, other family members, treatment providers, etc.)

Alabama law allows juvenile probation officers
access to the following records

“Section 12-15-100 - Filing and inspection of records, etc.

(a) Social, medical, and psychiatric or psychological records, including reports of preliminary inquiries and predisposition studies, of delinquent, in need of supervision and dependent children, including supervision records of such children, shall be filed separate from other files and records of the court and shall be open to inspection and copying, only by the following:

(1) The judge and probation officers and professional staff assigned to serve the court.

(b) All other court records, including the docket, petitions, motions, and other papers filed with a case, transcripts of testimony, findings, verdicts, orders, and decrees shall be open to inspection by those persons and agencies designated in subsections (a) and (b).

(e) Whoever, except for the purposes permitted and in the manner provided by this section, discloses or makes use of or knowingly permits the use of information concerning a child before the court directly or indirectly derived from the records of the court or acquired in the course of official duties, upon conviction thereof, shall be guilty of a Class A misdemeanor within the jurisdiction of the juvenile court.”

Assessing safety risks posed by juveniles require exploration of the offenses themselves, circumstances and motivations for committing the offenses, and the juveniles’ previous histories.

The public protection goals of disposition decisionmaking call for realistic assessments of risks. What specific risks do juveniles pose to communities? What are communities’ tolerances for these kinds of risks? What can juvenile probation offices do to manage or minimize the risks?

The offenses themselves, along with juveniles’ track records of offending, are the best shorthand indicators of the dangers they may represent to their communities. Details to be explored include not just what juveniles did but why and how, and sometimes even where and when. The duration and seriousness of juveniles’ offense histories—especially any histories of offending while under supervision or participating in community programming— are all relevant as well.

Whether or not juveniles can be safely maintained in communities depends in part on the range and appropriateness of local dispositional alternatives available. The same juveniles may be “safe” in communities with adequate monitoring resources and effective services, but not in communities that lacked them. In general, however, most juveniles cannot and should not be “sent away.” Even from pure public safety standpoints, and without regard to costs, all but small proportions of serious juveniles are better handled in their communities—where they will have opportunities to learn and practice pro-social ways of living—than in secure institutions. See Juvenile Criminal Sex Offenders Section in “Special Populations Chapter.”

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Predisposition investigations should also bring to light the culpability of juveniles and the consequences of the offenses.
By the time of predisposition investigations, juveniles’ guilt should already have been established or admitted. However, particularly if juveniles have been found delinquent as a result of plea agreements rather than fullblown trials, it may be impossible to hold them fully accountable without establishing the degrees to which they were actually at fault, and what harm they caused.
Victims’ information—regarding the nature of the offenses, the tangible and intangible harm suffered, the amount of restitution required, etc.—will be pertinent here. However, the attitudes of juveniles, their acceptance of responsibilities, their awareness and understanding of the consequences of their actions,and their remorse—will matter almost as much.
The goals of disposition decision-making call for investigations of the juveniles’ individual and family strengths and needs.
With the right supervision, services, and supports, most juveniles can become productive, responsible members of society. Predisposition investigations help juvenile courts determine what measures will be “right” for individual juveniles. They do it by identifying the circumstances and factors that have contributed to the juveniles’ delinquency in the past, asking what skills (or “competencies”) the juveniles’ need to develop in order to break the old patterns, and assessing the juveniles’ (and their families’) strengths, resources, and receptiveness to intervention.
The overall goals here are to help the juveniles to acquire “living, learning, working” skills, end destructive behaviors, and improve cognitive/decision-making skills. In fact, most juveniles benefit from the juvenile courts’ intervention and outgrow their negative behaviors because of their acquisition of these skills, their relationships with significant people, and their attachments to conventional groups and institutions. Accordingly, investigations should establish the juveniles’ developmental ages, maturity, capacities, and willingness to change. It should ask what thinking or decision-making patterns or social, educational, or vocational deficits contribute to the risk of persistent or escalating offending. What strengths can be built upon? What opportunities are needed to practice new skills and receive feedback? How can bonding and attachment to pro-social community entities be encouraged?
Written guidelines give structure and consistency to
Just as written guidelines improve the consistency and fairness of intake and detention decision-making, they can help to provide an objective, consistent framework for disposition recommendations as well. Guidelines should reflect state law and the juvenile courts’ mission and goals. They should describe the available dispositional alternatives and articulate explicit criteria for recommending among them. They should also preserve a measure of juvenile probation officer discretion.
Typical guidelines require the decision-maker to consider—and generally assign weighted “scores” to—the levels of offenses, prior convictions or adjudications, and a variety of possible aggravating and mitigating factors and conditions, such as the seriousness of the injuries inflicted or the presence or absence of premeditation. Depending on the resulting score, juveniles can be matched with a level of disposition, or at least a range of possible dispositions.
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Assessment Checklist
Domain Factors
Risk Assessment
  • Criminal history – arrest at young age; number and type of
    prior referral placements and commitments
  • Multiple problems (3 or more) across more than one
    domain in Needs Assessment
Needs Assessment
Family/ Parenting Attributes
Parent/child relationship – poor or dysfunctional, disinterested
or detached, inconsistent parenting or parental rejection
Juveniles’ Attributes
  • Peer relations – delinquent friends, gang involvement or
  • Behavior – poor self-control, impulsive, verbally or
    physically abusive
  • Performance – grades, achievements
  • Behavior – suspensions or expulsions, reports of disruptive
    classroom behavior or problems with teachers
  • Attendance – truancies, not currently in school
  • Assessments – results of any educational assessments
Substance Abuse/Mental Illness
  • Mental Illness- depressed, suicidal, mental illness diagnosis
  • Alcohol or drugs – occasional or chronic use
  • Substance abuse – linked to offenses, disrupts functioning
Strength Assessment
Family/Parenting Attributes
Good parent/child relationships, clear expectations for and
monitoring of child’s behavior
Juveniles’ Attributes
  • Interest in school activities (clubs, chorus, band, sports),
    extracurricular activities (scouting, church, Y, Boys/Girls
    Club), personal interests or hobbies.
  • Relationships – prosocial friends, positive relationship with
    supportive adult
  • Attribute – emotionally mature, receptive to help
School Good reading ability
Accountability Assessment
  • Victim Impact Statement
  • Restitution/community service obligation
  • Victim willingness to interact with offender
  • Offender remorse for crime, empathy toward victim,
    acknowledges harm
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Some states have gone to extreme lengths in this direction—legislatively imposing what are in effect criminal-style statewide sentencing guidelines on the juvenile disposition process. That is not what is being advocated here. However, well-designed, thorough, flexible guidelines for disposition recommendations can assure the courts that disposition recommendations reflect systematic attention to each of the three primary disposition goals— public protection, offender accountability, and rehabilitation—and that factors relevant to those goals, as well as the goals set out in Section 12-15-1.1, Ala. Code 1975, have been duly weighed in individual cases. They can also make it possible for juvenile probation officers to assemble useful data regarding the consistency and fairness of their own case-handling performance.
Disposition recommendations should be
embodied in clear, concise, and complete
Juvenile probation officers use the information gathered during predisposition investigations and assessments—in addition to information already compiled at intake—to prepare reports for the courts’ consideration during the dispositional hearings. Each court is likely to have its own predisposition report format and requirements. It is important to follow a standard format and address all required items; a favorable reception for dispositional recommendations may well depend on the ease with which busy judges are able to locate information in reports.
Certain general guidelines apply to all
such reports
– Reports should clearly indicate what information has been established and how and designate information that is known only by hearsay—that is, any information that has been learned from absent third parties whose credibility cannot be tested by cross- examination
– Reports should include only information that has value or relevance to decisions.
-Reports should not contain details that add nothing
to assessments. However, reports should contain relevant information even if it does not support recommendations.
– Reports should be specific and not contain generalized descriptions (“frequently tardy”) in favor of detailed or quantifiable facts (“tardy 13 times in October.”)
– Reports should be objective and should not contain opinions as facts. Opinions should be attributed to their proper sources. Opinions of juvenile probation officers should be place in the summary or assessment sections of reports.
– Reports should contain language that is clear, simple, and grammatically correct and jargon should be avoided.
– Information in the reports should be brief, succinct, and user-friendly, so that they are capable of being comprehended quickly and easily.
          Dispositional Recommendation Checklist
  • What risks do juveniles pose to communities?

  • What are juveniles’ attitudes toward the
    victims and the offenses?

  • What factors and circumstances
    contributed to juveniles’ offending?

  • What skills do juveniles need to acquire?

  • What are juveniles’ (and the juveniles’
    families’) strengths, resources, and
    receptiveness to intervention?

  • Are the juveniles criminal sex
    offenders? (See “Special Populations” Chapter)
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Testifying Tips
In accordance with Rule 24(d) of the Alabama Juvenile Rules of Procedure, no probation officer shall elicit testimony at the hearing. However, probation officers are permitted to testify in court concerning their disposition.
*Juvenile probation officers should be aware that accompanying law enforcement officers on “ride-a-longs” interferes with their neutral status resulting in the increased possibility of being considered witnesses.
  • Juvenile probation officers should come to court prepared. This not only increases their effectiveness as witnesses, but also it helps alleviates any anxieties they may feel as newcomers to the process. If juvenile probation officers are unfamiliar with courtrooms in which they will be testifying, they should visit them beforehand. Juvenile probation officers should review—but should not memorize— written documents (statements, reports, petitions, etc.) about which they will be testifying, and familiarize themselves with the whole files. They can bring notes with them to refer to on the stand, but they should be aware that they may be asked to submit them to the courts, and they should bring copies for the judges and the attorneys.
  • If juvenile probation officers are nervous, they should pay attention to the rates at which they are breathing, and should try to slow themselves down. If they know any tension-reducing tricks that they can practice without calling attention to themselves—such as pressing their toes down into their shoes, or visualizing peaceful scenes—they should make use of them.
  • When juvenile probation officers take the stand, their attires, postures, mannerisms, choices of words, and everything else about them should reflect respect for the courts —even if other hearing participants’ do not. They should dress formally. They should address the judges as “Your Honor.” They should sit up straight, keep their bodies still, look speakers in the eyes, and pay attention. They should keep gestures to a minimum. They should avoid using poor grammar, jargon, or slang.
On the other hand, they should not “complexify” things—they will be more effective if they keep their testimony as simple and straightforward as possible.
  • Juvenile probation officer’ jobs as witnesses are to answer the questions that are asked to them. They should listen until the questions are finished—never interrupt. Then they should take breaths, answer questions truthfully, and stop. They should not anticipate questions that have not been asked.
  • Juvenile probation officers should not answer on the basis of what they think the questioners really mean. They should not hesitate to ask for clarification and should not be afraid to say they do not know.
  • One of the most important rules in courtrooms is that juvenile probation officers should only testify as to matters of which they have direct knowledge. If juvenile probation officers think they are being asked to guess,speculate, or pass along what others have told them, they should say so, and be clear that that is what they are doing. Another important rule is that juvenile probation officers must stop answering immediately when there are objections, and wait until the judges say they may continue.
  • Sometimes juvenile probation officers may be asked questions that contain more than one question. They should not answer compound questions all at once, and risk leaving false impressions; break them down, and answer them part by part. Likewise, Juvenile probation officers should not answer questions that assume facts that are not true, without first correcting the false assumptions. Finally, when juvenile probation officers have finished testifying about something, questioners will sometimes purport to “sum up” what they have said, and ask them to confirm it; they should never acquiesce in inaccurate summaries of their testimony.
Source: Allegheny County (PA) Juvenile Court Policy and Procedures Manual, Appendix A: The Courtroom Presentation. *material added not included as part of above cited reference.
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         The following are typical components of
                         prediposition reports:
1. Offense Information: Again, much of this
information would have been obtained at intake.
Reports also could include charges substantiated and additional facts developed at adjudicatory hearings. Among other facts, these sections may reflect:
– Whether juveniles acted alone or with others
– Whether juveniles acted as leaders or followers
– Roles of participants and dispositions of
– Motivation for offenses (e.g., personal gain,
retribution, chemical dependency)
– Events preceding offenses
– Conditions of juveniles at times of offenses (drunk, on
drugs, emotional/angry)
– Whether offenses were premeditated or committed
on impulses
– Times offenses were committed
– Whether offenses involved weapons
– Recommendations for dispositions from arresting
2. Juveniles’ Statements Regarding Offenses:
– Attitudes about the offenses (e.g., boastful or
ashamed, defiant, or remorseful)
– Attitudes and concerns toward the victims
3. Parental Statements Regarding Offenses:
– Their knowledge of the offenses
– Steps they have taken of a corrective or preventive
nature in addressing behavioral issues with their
– Recommendations for dispositions
                          Procedures for Handling
              Subpoenas/SubpoenasDecum Tecum
                for Juvenile Court or Other Records
Sometimes, juvenile probation officers receive subpoenas (ordering that they appear and testify about juvenile court matters or documents) or subpoenas duces tecum (ordering that they produce juvenile court or other records) in any kind of case (civil, criminal, juvenile, etc.), and they wonder what they should do to respond them.
The best advice for juvenile probation officers is to file a “Motion to Quash Subpoena or Subpoena Duces Tecum” for the reason that these records or information are confidential by law. A sample Motion may be found in the Appendix. Juvenile probation officers should complete and file this Motion in the court in which the subpoena is filed. The Motion shall contain the style of the case, the case number, juvenile probation officers name. Then, the juvenile probation officer should sign it.
In the certificate of service section at the bottom of the Motion, juvenile probation officers should complete the name of the party or attorney sending the subpoena and his or her address and then sign his or her name.
The original signed Motion should be sent to the Court in which the subpoena was issued, and a copy should be sent to the party or attorney in the Certificate of Service.
If the Motion to Quash is GRANTED by the court in which the subpoena was issued, then juvenile probation officers does NOT have to appear and/or produce the documents or records requested. If the Motion to Quash is DENIED, then juvenile probation officers MUST OBEY THE SUBPOENA, OR HE OR SHE MAY BE SUBJECT TO CONTEMPT OF THE COURT THAT ISSUED THE SUBPONEA.
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4. Victims’ Information:

– Victims’ Impact Statements

– Injuries or losses sustained by victims

– Restitution sought/concerns to be addressed

– Juveniles’ access to or relationship with victims; victims’
willingness to participate in dispositions

– Perceived risks of being re-victimized

5. Prior Records:

– Chronological summaries of juveniles’ offense histories,
previous dispositions, and records of compliance with
prior court orders or diversion agreements

– Placement histories

– Stealing patterns

– Runaway patterns

6. Family/Parenting Attributes:

– Parent-child relationships/involvement, resources,
strengths/skills, ties with communities

– Marital histories

– Educational and employment histories

– Substance abuse, mental health issues

– Criminal histories, including domestic
violence disturbances

– Control and supervision, including knowledge of
juveniles’ friends and activities

– Discipline styles, limit-setting, rules enforcement

– Sense of responsibility for juveniles’ behavior

– Home and neighborhood conditions

– Influences and social pressures of neighborhoods

7. Health Histories:

– Physical health, serious illnesses, accidents,
disabilities, or medications

– Mental health, including results of any screening
or clinical evaluations

– Controlled substance use, including results of any
drug tests, screens, or clinical assessments,
treatment experiences and attitudes toward recovery

8. Educational Histories:

– Schools attended and present statuses

– Academic performances (grades, standardized test

– Attendance records

– Learning problems (results of any testing or

– Conduct and disciplinary actions and
response to discipline

– Participation in school or extracurricular

– Awards and accomplishments

– Educational goals

9. Employment Histories:

– Work patterns/habits

– Duration and reasons for termination

– Attitudes toward jobs, work in general

– Career goals

10. Personal Characteristics:

– Developmental capacities, attention spans

– Abilities to relate to peers, adults

– Delinquent friendships/gang activity

– Anti-social attitudes, values, beliefs

– Self-control, impulsivity

– Juveniles’ view of problem areas and

11. Structured Use of Time:

– Hobbies, recreational activities, and special

– Memberships in clubs, organizations

– Community service and other volunteering

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12. Summary and Assessment:

– Public Safety Goals: Risks of harm to self and
communities in view of present offenses, offense
histories, and responses to prior interventions

– Accountability Goals: Impacts of crime on victims and
communities, including losses and juveniles’ abilities to
pay restitution or fines; juveniles’ levels of remorse

– Rehabilitation Goals: Factors/circumstances that
contributed to the crimes that must be addressed

13. Recommendations:

Disposition recommendations should specify the best possible dispositions as well as the best available ones. Most primary dispositions fall into a few broad categories. They may include being placed on probation, commitment to secure institutions; residential placements in public or private facilities, such as community-based group homes; referrals to nonresidential programs for “day treatment” services; various forms of probation supervision; and orders to pay fines, make restitution, or perform community service.
Obtaining Records and Information
Juvenile probation officers need information to prepare comprehensive predisposition reports, to determine conditions of probation, to investigate and for general practice purposes. Juvenile probation officers should obtain written releases from juveniles to facilitate communication with other agencies, departments, entities, and individuals regarding juveniles.
Note: Please review the requirements of the Child Death Review Team Statute (§26-16-94 et. seq, Ala. Code 1975), and Law Enforcement Records Statute (§12-15-101, Ala. Code 1975), regarding disclosure.
Every county has its own unique mix of primary dispositional alternatives and secondary sanctions and services. Not every mix is adequate. Juvenile probation officers should always begin by recommending the best courses to be taken with juveniles—even if they are unavailable or otherwise impractical. If the best dispositions are not among the available options, the gaps in needed programs or services should be noted and secondary recommendations should be made. If nothing else, documentation of service gaps may facilitate development of needed resources in the future.

In addition to primary disposition recommendations, juvenile probation officers usually propose programs of supplemental restrictions, sanctions, and services that could form the basis of cases or supervision plans for juveniles. In all cases, the proposed conditions should serve the broad goals of the disposition process. However, this matter is discussed more fully in the following chapter on Supervision.



Siegel, L., and Senna, J. (1985). Juvenile Delinquency Theory, Practice, and law (2nd ed.). St. Louis, MO: West Publishing Company. These elements are taken largely form New Hampshire’s CYF Manual, April 1997. Additional elements are incorporated form predisposition report forms used elsewhere, including Pennsylvania and Orange County, CA.

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In this chapter ; the following topics will be
  • the goals of probation supervision

  • elements of good supervision plans

  • case classifications

  • graduated sanctions and incentives

  • performance/compliance monitoring

Good juvenile probation supervision practice must be
goal-driven, performance-based, and outcomefocused.

Supervision, a term that encompasses the core of the juvenile probation function, is the sum of all the activities juvenile probation officers engage in to assist juveniles on probation toward behavior change and accountability. It is a process built upon the central idea that to change juveniles’ behavior and hold them accountable requires both a structure to limit potential wrongdoing and a response to life experiences that enable prosocial behavior and reparation. Juvenile probation officers are in the hopeful position of influencing that development and thereby reducing delinquent behavior.

During the supervision phase, juvenile probation officers develop and manage courses of action that have the greatest likelihood of achieving the desired outcomes of safe communities, victim reparations, and more law-abiding juveniles. Juvenile probation officers consider converging interests of communities at large, victims, and juveniles in developing courses of action, the supervision plans. Juvenile probation officers then facilitate juvenile participation in supervision plans, oversee risk management components, monitor juveniles’ performance, and enforce compliance, all the while serving as mature role models and resources to juveniles and their families. What makes supervision the “essence” of probation, however, is the interpersonal relationship with juveniles. If juveniles fail to buy into that relationship, juvenile probation is not likely to succeed.

This chapter discusses the essential components of good juvenile probation supervision practice that are driven by goals, based on performance, and focused on outcomes: individualized assessments, supervision plans, a system of case management, and record keeping and documentation of outcomes.

Further assessments of new juveniles on probation help to define supervision objectives.
The purpose of assessments once juveniles are placed on probation is to gather information in order to develop supervision plans. Although assessments begin at the initial point of contact with the system, assessments are an ongoing process while juveniles are active with the juvenile courts. Once juveniles are placed on probation by judges and assigned to juvenile probation officers, those officers review court orders and the information gathered during intake and predisposition investigations and add to them as needed.

Individualized assessments are essential because not all juveniles exhibit the same problems or pose the same threats to communities and, in a system of limited resources, it is both unnecessary and wasteful to treat all juveniles the same.

Assessments are not separate steps that must be completed before any services are offered. Juvenile probation officers can immediately provide information to juveniles and their families about the process of probation supervision, provide orientation to juveniles regarding conditions imposed by juvenile courts, evaluate juveniles for crisis intervention services, and begin work with juveniles and their families on setting goals and objectives.
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If it is not already known, juvenile probation officers should gather information from juveniles, their parents, victims, and other relevant sources that allows assessments of the following:

– What levels of risk do juveniles pose to their communities? What factors associated with supervision and control (negative peer relations, lack of parental supervision and control, not in school) pose the greatest risks for continued delinquent activities? Are the parents or other family members able and willing to monitor the juveniles’ whereabouts? What were the juveniles’ responses to prior interventions?
– What victim issues can be addressed? Do victims desire interaction with juveniles? Are juveniles aware of the harm caused by their offenses? Are juveniles remorseful?

– What behavior problems, thinking errors, or skill deficits contributed to juveniles’ delinquent behaviors? What mental health or substance abuse problems or learning disabilities would interfere with learning? What types of intervention/ services are available to address concerns? How motivated are juveniles to change? How will their parents be engaged to take active and positive roles in their children’s lives?

– What are juveniles’ strengths and assets? How can they be built upon to increase bonding and attachment to prosocial activities and institutions? (See the assessment checklist in the “Disposition”

Supervision plans serve as blueprints for juvenile
probation supervision.

Supervision plans are essentially contracts between juvenile probation offices and juveniles and their families, the fulfillment of which will be performance-based. They are to be developed within a framework that ensures balanced attention to communities, victims, and juveniles setting out activities and responsibilities to be performed, benefits to be gained or consequences to be faced if the plans are fulfilled or violated, and the juvenile probation officers’ roles in ensuring compliance. These plans are also tools that direct, juveniles, their parents, and juvenile probation officers toward targeted activities so that key objectives are not forgotten and less essential activities are given a lower priority.
Typically, juvenile probation officers base supervision activities on court-ordered conditions of probation. However, by themselves, the conditions do not provide the functional or practical guidance required for good juvenile supervision practice.
While case management is the process juvenile probation officers use to facilitate juveniles’ participation, monitor juveniles’ performance, and enforce compliance to court orders, supervision plans are the blueprints. Plans should outline: (1) clear goals and meaningful objectives for juveniles to achieve while on supervision; (2) activities juvenile probation officers and juveniles should be involved in to accomplish those goals and objectives; and (3) timeframes for completing each objective. If the terms of the contracts are met, the juveniles should be granted some form of completion benefits. If juveniles have been fully informed about the expectations of probation supervision, there should be no ambiguity about what exactly must be done to be eligible for achieving successful termination.
Supervision plans must address three goals.
1. Community Safety:
Supervision plans should specify what levels of supervision and security are required to address the overall risk juveniles pose to communities and how juveniles’ days will be structured in productive activities. What behaviors must be monitored and addressed to keep communities safe? How will juveniles develop internal controls so that communities will be safe during and after supervision? Juvenile probation offices should have a range of supervision activities and security restrictions available including, but not limited to the following:
– Different levels of supervision (low, medium, and high intensity) with minimum contact standards/reporting requirements for each level
– Probation/police surveillance teams
– Electronic monitoring
– Curfew
– Drug testing
– Day or evening reporting programs

Some juvenile probation offices use risk classification instruments to determine the proper supervision level. (See “Case Classification.”) Juvenile probation offices using risk classification scales should consider the following:

– Cut-off points for the different levels of supervision (the range of scores should be sufficiently broad).
– Contact standards for the different levels of supervision needs to differ substantially.
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Case Classification
Case Classification Case classification is a management tool that juvenile probation offices use to assign juveniles to the proper level of supervision and identify the factors or circumstances that place juveniles at risk for continued delinquent activity. Classification is made based on the best information available and the results of structured assessments of juveniles’ risk and needs. Separate risk and need instruments or combined risk/need instruments essentially summarize information from the assessments by scoring key aspects.*

Classification systems have evolved since they were first used in the 1950s to categorize juveniles based on their psychological traits. Some current principles of classification are:

  • Classification enables the system to treat juveniles differently but to do so systematically. It is justified when there are legitimate goals that allow juveniles to be treated differently, and there is an information base indicating that certain forms of differential treatment will help achieve those goals. Juvenile probation offices must establish priorities for the aims of its classification process.

  • Classification must take account of organizational context. A system created for one setting (probation) will not usually apply to another (institutions). Juvenile probation offices differ in terms of philosophy, resources and clients.

  • Risk classifications should be validated on the populations to which they will be applied. Even though the basic factors related to risks (e.g., previous criminal histories, substance abuse, early involvement in trouble, current ages, family disruptions) appear to be fairly consistent from one setting to another, risk scales do not transfer well. Managers need to know that a given instrument is working to differentiate higher risk juveniles from lower risk juveniles. The only way to do that is to validate the instruments locally.
  • Needs classifications should be based on criminogenic factors and lead to programs designed to alter these factors. Generic needs assessments can identify juveniles’ problems and the classifications are valuable to the extent that they lead to effective programming decisions. However, they have limitations: some needs (mental illnesses, sexual problems, substance abuse problems, and motivations for treatment) are complex and require an additional battery of assessments; and if proven treatment programs are not available, it makes little sense to assess needs.

  • Classification system design and validation require good data and are costly. Reliable classification systems are unbiased and valid. Appropriate databases of sufficient size and richness are needed to allow demonstration of the value of the instruments.

  • Training and monitoring are essential to good classification practice. Implementation issues are the most common failings of the process.

  • The best classification approaches integrate treatment and management issues. All activities of various staff should feed into one another’s work as well as the overall aims of the organization in order to allow data driven strategies

Source: Clear, T. (June 1995) “The design and implementation of classification systems.” Federal Probation v. 59, p. 58-61. -A guide to preparing risk classification instruments is available from the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention. Risk Classification: A Comparison of Methods for Practical Application in Juvenile Courts (2002), by Don Gottfredson and Howard Snyder, can be ordered from the Juvenile Justice Clearinghouse at (800) 638-8736, or downloaded at OJJDP’s web site (
* Classification instruments used to estimate risk levels are based on group data. Juveniles are merely placed in groups about which probability statements can be made. Some members of each group will reoffend; others will not. Risk classification instruments can establish different probability rates for different groups but cannot identify precisely which juveniles in each group will reoffend. Baird, C., and Bakke, A. (January 1988). Report on Field Classification: Issues and Options Regarding Statewide Adoption of a Uniform Classification System in Oregon. Madison, WI: National Council on Crime and Delinquency.
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–The scales should not be used for administrative or paper status cases (if there is a “no contact” category, it should not be included as a supervision level).

– Scoring the instrument should be simple.

– The rationale must be readily apparent and accepted by staff.

– Staff should be allowed to make professional judgments that override the score.

2. Juvenile Accountability:
Supervision plans should also specify how the accountability requirements will be fulfilled; provide how juveniles will make amends for the harms inflicted; and what strategies will be used to increase their understanding of the real human impact of their behaviors on victims and communities. More than likely the court orders will stipulate restitution or community service obligations. How will they be carried out? What will the restitution payment/community service schedules be? If victims desire interaction, what measures beyond payment of restitution or completion of community service will be required to restore victims?

Juvenile probation offices should have ranges of accountability sanctions available including, but not limited to:

– Community service opportunities

– Methods for monitoring restitution, fines, or fees paid and community hours completed

– Victim/offender mediation

– Victim impact panels

– Victim awareness classes

– Written apologies to victims and services to victims

Victim Contact
Contacts with victims should be the responsibility of district attorneys’ offices or other independent parties not representing the interests of juveniles. Juvenile probation officers should refer victims to district attorneys to obtain documents, information regarding restitution collection, or for answers to questions regarding their cases. If juvenile probation officers become involved with providing information to victims, such victim contacts should be provided pursuant to court orders.

Written protocols relative to victim issues should be developed for juvenile courts. Further, Juvenile Probation Officer Standards set out by the Alabama Administrative Office of Courts states that the duties of a probation officer are those set out in Section 12-15-7 of the Code of Alabama.

Protocols should include: (1) clearly stated goals; (2) the forms and documents necessary to accomplish the goals; (3) clearly stated duties of the participants; (4) instructions on how to document and monitor performance of the duties; (5) guidelines for sharing of information among participants; and (6) protocol and program evaluation methods.

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3. Practical Rehabilitation:
Lastly, supervision plans should address behavior problems, thinking errors, or skill deficits that place juveniles at greatest risk for continued delinquent activity, specifying the services/interventions that will best address those needs. Juvenile probation officers must build on the juveniles’ strengths, enhance living-, learning- and working-skills, encourage bonding and attachment to prosocial community entities, and provide opportunities for actively practicing new skills. (See the section on practical rehabilitation in the next chapter.) Juvenile probation offices should have a range of rehabilitation/skill development services including:

– Conflict resolution or anger management classes

– Living, learning, working skill-building classes

– Tutoring or mentoring programs

– Cognitive interventions

– Counseling programs

– Treatment programs for specific problems

– Parenting education classes, skills training, family therapy sessions

In addition to the restrictions, sanctions, and services identified above, juvenile probation offices also need a continuum of sanctions for noncompliance and incentives for compliance. (See “Graduated Sanctions/Incentives.”)
There must be processes for identifying rehabilitation priorities.
The goal of juvenile probation supervision is not to “fix” juveniles—not every problem presented by juveniles can be addressed during the term of probation. Because of resource and time constraints, it is necessary to prioritize problems or targets for intervention. Once relevant information has been gathered, juvenile probation officers should look across all of the domains (see assessment checklist in previous Chapter) and consider the following:

  • Severity – What three factors place juveniles at greatest risk for continued delinquent activity? Those behaviors and cognitive deficits that have contributed to the juveniles’ delinquent behavior s should be selected.

  • Alterability – Can the problems be modified or circumvented? Areas that can be changed should be targeted.

  • Speed – Can the changes be achieved within the period of supervision?

  • Interdependence – Will solving the problems help resolve other problems? Those problems that are likely to have the most impact on reducing juveniles’ offending behaviors in both the near and long term should be selected.
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Graduated Sanctions/Incentives
Graduated sanctions and incentives can be used to enforce compliance with probation conditions. A 1999 study by Taxman, Soule and Gelb identified the following essential features of good graduated sanctions systems:

  • Certainty: it responds to every infraction.

  • Speed: the responses are swift.

  • Consistency: similar infractions receive similar responses.

  • Economy: the responses chosen are the minimum likely to produce the desired results.

  • Proportionality: the level of responses should equal the level of the offenses.

  • Progressiveness: continued noncompliance results in increasingly severe responses.

  • Neutrality: responses are objective, impartial reactions to offenses.

A continuum of sanctions should be available so that juveniles can receive the appropriate level of responses. Ultimate sanctions include the revocation of probation and institutionalization. However, there are incremental and intermediate sanctions that can be employed, including imposition of community work service, curfews, financial costs, stricter supervision, and possibly extension of probation supervision. Juvenile probation offices have formal house arrest programs or short-term detention sentences to sanction noncompliant juveniles on probation. However, community-based sanctions programs appear to be at least as successful as traditional incarceration in reducing recidivism, and the most wellstructured graduated sanctions programs appear to be more effective than incarceration.

A structured sanction menu spells out appropriate responses to various kinds of noncompliance. This can make sanctions more consistent, more equitable, and more proportional to the seriousness of the violation, and can contribute to a more swift and certain response. It can also give juveniles a clearer understanding of the consequences of noncompliance.

Juveniles can and should be allowed to contribute input regarding sanctions and incentives. Securing probationers’ input can increase the likelihood that response will be meaningful to them.
Incentives—rewards for compliance—may be an even more useful tool for changing behavior than sanctions. Incentives for compliance should be delivered with the same consistency, immediacy, and certainty as sanctions for noncompliance.

Just as sanctions should be graduated in intensity, incentives should be graduated in value. Therefore, as the juvenile probationers’ compliance with case plans are achieved and maintained, the rewards become greater, ultimately culminating in release from juvenile probation supervision. In the same way that graduated sanctions may progress from verbal warnings all the way to detention or even commitment, graduated incentives can progress through a continuum such as the following: verbal praise; written notes commending praiseworthy conduct; material prizes; privileges; relaxed supervision; and the restoration of freedom through release from supervision.

As a practical matter, juvenile probation officers must grant some leeway in monitoring and responding to juveniles’ compliance and behavior, particularly where judicial resources are limited. However, the link between technical violations of juvenile probation and subsequent re-offending cannot be ignored. Juveniles who begin to violate probation conditions, whether it be missed restitution payments or missed appointments, are sending signals, and juvenile probation officers should be cognizant of those signals. While it may sometimes be unrealistic to expect perfect compliance, it is equally unrealistic to expect that ignoring acts of noncompliance will lead to juveniles making desired behavior changes. Rather than viewing noncompliance as a defeat or a failure, good juvenile probation officers seize it as teaching opportunities.

Juvenile probation officers’ ability to deliver sanctions and incentives is dependent upon the courts’ support. Juvenile probation offices should operate with a realistic view of the courts’ positions. Juvenile probation officers should neither promise nor threaten what the courts will not deliver.

Juvenile probation officers must be familiar with and follow locally established criteria for notifying the courts of probation violations.
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Graduated Sanctions/Incentives Cont.

Generally, however, court action should be requested only in connection with serious violations. Less serious violations should be handled within the juvenile probation offices in accordance with court policies.

Some situations warrant immediate court responses —for example, when the safety of the juveniles or their communities is threatened. Juvenile probation officers should have a good understanding of what acts qualify for immediate responses, and be familiar with procedures for delivering those immediate responses, including scheduling hearings. Juvenile probation officers may have to testify at revocation hearings. If county or district attorneys are required to present cases for revocation, juvenile probation officers should contact them and review all relevant source materials and prepare for testimony.

Sources: Taxman, F., Soule, D., and Gelb, A. (1999). “Graduated Sanctions: Stepping Into Accountable Systems and Offenders.” Prison Journal 79(2). Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention. (1995). Guide for Implementing the Comprehensive Strategy for Serious, Violent, and Chronic Juvenile Offenders. Washington, DC: OJJDP.

Alabama Statute

Proceedings against children violating terms of probation, aftercare or protective supervision; disposition of such children.

(a) A child on probation incident to an adjudication as a delinquent or child in need of supervision who violates the terms of his probation or aftercare or a child under protective supervision who fails to conform to the terms of his protective supervision may be proceeded against for a revocation of such order.

(b) A proceeding to revoke probation, aftercare or protective supervision shall be commenced by the filing of a petition entitled "petition to revoke probation," "petition to revoke aftercare" or "petition to revoke protective supervision." Except as otherwise provided, such petitions shall be screened, reviewed and prepared in the same manner and shall contain the same information as provided in Sections 12-15-50 and 12-15-52.

The petition shall recite the date that the child was placed on probation, aftercare or under protective supervision and shall state the time and manner in which notice of the terms of probation, aftercare or protective supervision was given.

(c) Probation, aftercare or protective supervision revocation proceedings shall require clear and convincing evidence. In all other respects, proceedings to revoke probation, aftercare or protective supervision shall be governed by the procedures, safeguards and rights and duties applicable to delinquency, in need of supervision and dependency cases contained in this chapter.

(d) If a child is found to have violated the terms of his probation or aftercare pursuant to a revocation hearing, the court may extend the period of probation or aftercare or make any other order of disposition specified for a child adjudicated delinquent or in need of supervision. If a child is found to have violated the terms of his protective supervision pursuant to a revocation hearing, the court may extend the period of protective supervision or may make any order of disposition specified for a child adjudicated dependent. [12-15-75, Ala. Code 1975]

Once the three problem areas have been selected, juvenile probation officers should complete the following:

  • Step 1: Define each problem. For example, if conduct at school is a problem, clarify it by indicating what will have to change (e.g., fighting, defiance toward teachers).

  • Step 2: Identify any strengths or protective factors relevant to the area. Build on knowledge, skills and abilities juveniles already possess or any past successes. For example, teachers may be willing to work with juveniles on their school behavior.

  • Step 3: Identify any barriers or obstacles that might interfere with addressing the problem. For example, a severe anger management problem might interfere in dealing with the conduct problem.

  • Step 4: List any incentives that juveniles might respond to in addressing the problem area. For example, participation in a class trip might be a meaningful reward for improved conduct.

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Supervision plans should be specific, focused, measurable, and time-limited.
After juvenile probation officers have determined the level of supervision required, the accountability measures to be completed, and the prioritized rehabilitation targets, the next step involves specifying the objectives that juveniles should achieve while under supervision. In addition to addressing departmental goals, all supervision plans should:

– Contain specific, positive goals and measurable behavioral objectives, with activities and action steps specified.

– Focus on a few objectives for each goal: those objectives that meet the primary goals of probation as well as those identified by the client as important.

– Be realistic about challenges, but optimistic when gauging the juveniles’ potential.

– Distinguish between court-ordered conditions and voluntary objectives.

– Break down goals (e.g., becoming law-abiding) into shorter-term, achievable objectives (e.g., getting a job, which can lead to developing basic employment skills, which can lead to long-term employment, which can lead to stability and productivity, etc.).

– Set completion dates and stagger dates.

– Involve key players (e.g., victim sign-off, juvenile buy-in, parental endorsement).

Case management becomes more purposeful when activities are aligned with juvenile probation office goals.
Once plans are developed, juvenile probation officers oversee the risk management (or community safety) component of supervision plans, facilitate juveniles’ participation in the accountability and rehabilitation aspects of the plans, monitor performance and completion of each objective, and enforce overall compliance with plans.
Good case management is a critical component of good juvenile supervision practice. Without plans, other influences will dictate juvenile probation officers’ activities: the decisions on day-to-day work will more likely be process and activity-oriented (e.g., reports filed, contact standards met, number of violations re-ported) instead of aligning activities and managing cases to achieve juvenile probation offices’ goals. 5 Supervision plans force juvenile probation officers and their supervisors to question how the activities outlined in the plan achieve the intended outcomes. As such, supervision plans lend themselves to outcome-focused practices and increase the juvenile probation offices’ ability to examine their practices and performance in light of their mission.

This mission-driven, performance-based, and outcomefocused approach to supervision requires juvenile probation officers to take on some old case management roles and to learn some new ones:

  • Overseer: Juvenile probation officers oversee risk management components of plans by performing the mandatory standard of service required for the particular levels of supervision to which juveniles have been assigned. Juvenile probation officer contacts in this regard should consist of substantive activities designed to ensure community safety by making sure juveniles’ days are structured and holding them responsible for their behavior at schools, at homes, and in communities.
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Electronic Monitoring
Electronic monitoring technology expands the range of offenders who can be safely supervised in the community. By providing probation departments with tools for closely tracking and monitoring probationers who pose a threat to public safety, electronic monitoring makes it possible to supervise somewhat higher-risk offenders at home without endangering the community. It can also enable probation departments to impose immediate consequences for probation violations and add needed accountability and structure to probationers’ daily lives at a fraction of the cost of residential alternatives. When electronic monitoring systems are implemented a written agreement defining the terms and conditions for usage should be developed.

Electronic monitoring methods include the following:

  • Continuous signaling devices, which use a transmitter attached to the probationer that emits a continuous radio signal. A receiver in the offender’s home detects the signal and transmits it through telephone lines to a monitoring computer. Alerts are sent if the signal is interrupted when the offender is not scheduled to be out of the home.

  • Programmed contact devices, which call the probationer at scheduled or random times and use various technologies to determine the identity of the person who answers (voice verification, device worn by the probationer to insert into a verifier box attached to the phone, camera for visual verification, etc.).

  • Global positioning systems, in which the probationer wears a transmitter that communicates signals to a satellite and back to a computer monitor, pinpointing the probationer’s whereabouts at all times.

  • Remote alcohol testing devices, which may be used alone or with other devices listed above. They require the probationer to blow into a device (alcosensor), which transmits results to a computer that records the amount of alcohol, if any. They may be attached to automobile ignitions to prevent driving after consuming alcohol.
  • Facilitator: Juvenile probation officers facilitate participation in the accountability and rehabilitation components of plans by conducting quality contacts. Personal contacts should consist of substantive activity designed to further the goals and objectives outlined in the supervision plans. More than any other role, this one reflects the “art” of supervising juveniles on probation. Juvenile probation officers offer instruction, counseling, and referral; accentuating the positive, nurturing, leading, encouraging, correcting, empowering and serving as mature, positive adult role models. Very often juvenile probation officers must engage parents to take their rightful roles in parenting their children.

  • Monitor: Juvenile probation officers monitor juveniles’ on probation performance/compliance by tracking progress in meeting plan objectives and successfully completing specific activities. Monitoring should be proactive, providing feedback on the juveniles’ performance. It should also be preventive and regular. Collateral contacts should consist of verifying the juveniles’ compliance with the conditions and objectives of plans and obtaining information about the juveniles’ behavior in schools, at homes, and in their communities. Interim progress reports could occur on a quarterly basis or in conjunction with school grading periods, since some of the information will reflect school behavior, performance, and attendance. There should be flexibility to modify plan objectives or activities if circumstances change. Failure should not be automatically blamed on juveniles; it may be the result of an inadequate plan, inadequate supervision, or a misconceived strategy. Juvenile probation officers should hold juveniles accountable for achieving the goals themselves— not necessarily for following the strategy.
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  • Enforcer: Juvenile probation officers enforce compliance with the conditions or objectives outlined in the supervision plans. When juveniles on probation are not in compliance, juvenile probation officers must determine whether the juveniles are unable or unwilling to comply. Juveniles, for example, may lack fundamental skills, thus making compliance impossible. If juveniles are unable to comply, the plans must be reformulated to address the deficiencies. On the other hand, if the lack of compliance is deemed to have been willful, juvenile probation officers must decide the best way to motivate the juveniles. Juvenile probation officers must be adept at using rewards or incentives to encourage compliance and sanctions for noncompliance. Juvenile probation officers must guard against being enablers (excusing or rationalizing delinquent behavior or violations) and must hold juveniles accountable for their behaviors and engage the juveniles in making the needed changes. (See “Graduated Sanctions/Incentives.”) Although most minor juvenile probation violations may be handled by juvenile probation officers, willful and deliberate noncompliance should always be reported to the courts, no matter how minor. Major violations— including any that are serious enough to have resulted in the filing of a petition if the juveniles were not already on probation—should be resolved by the courts as well (see §12-15-75 Ala. Code 1975 in previous section of this chapter). Juvenile probation offices should be authorized to return to courts to recommend modifications of the court orders. In such cases, copies of the requests should be served on the juveniles, the juveniles’ attorneys, the parents, and the prosecutors and hearings should be held no more than five days after the requests were filed. For these proceedings, the levels of proof may be set at preponderance of the evidence rather than beyond a reasonable doubt. However, when the conduct constitutes delinquent offenses, prosecutions for the new offenses are preferable to modifications of the original orders.

  • Community partner: Juvenile probation officers should develop partnerships with neighborhood groups, civic associations, service organizations, businesses, churches, schools and seek their participation in the justice process and help them build safe communities. Forming partnerships increases juvenile probation offices’ leverage in managing the risk juveniles present to their communities while under supervision and developing community service and other skill-building opportunities.

It also contributes to a shared ownership of the problem of delinquency. Juvenile probation officers should conduct supervision activities outside their offices whenever possible, visiting juveniles at homes, at schools, at community service sites, and at work. It is the content of these meetings, rather than their locations, that have greatest potential for impact, but the presence of the juvenile probation officers in the communities offers visual evidence that supervision is being conducted, allows juvenile probation officers to become familiar with the juveniles’ environment, increases opportunities for collateral contacts, and encourages community participation.

Service provider and broker: Juvenile probation officers should be involved in both providing and securing services for juveniles, their families and their victims. Based upon the supervision plans, they may provide services directly and indirectly. If juvenile probation officers possess skills in certain areas, such as facilitating skill-building groups, providing those services directly can be expedient and cost-effective. Juvenile probation officers must be familiar with community resources, knowledgeable about the referral and feedback process, and capable of advocating for services for both victims and juveniles.

This is not a complete list. The new approach to supervision may require juvenile probation officers to make other changes in the way they do their work— such as working nontraditional hours, making home visits at night or on weekends, and engaging parents when they are available and most likely to be attentive. It may also call for participation in cross-training opportunities with colleagues in related justice agencies. Nothing facilitates the sharing of information like personal relationships that are based on a clear understanding of each other’s goals.
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Keeping thorough records is an important component of supervision.
Juvenile probation officer records, in addition to formally prepared written reports, often form the evidentiary basis for revocation and other court hearings and must be able to withstand legal and factual challenges. Juvenile probation officers are officers of the courts with unique legal obligations to inform courts of any juvenile behavior that violates court orders or supervision plans. There is no right to confidentiality between juvenile probation officers and juveniles on probation. Rather, juvenile probation officers must be able to accurately report and document any pertinent information about juveniles that the courts may request.

While professionals have a right and duty to record assessments and opinions based on their knowledge and experience, these entries must be identified as such and supported by specifically enumerated details, observations, and discernable facts. Case entries should be specific to the juveniles’ behavior as well as the juvenile probation officers’ efforts to implement supervision plans.

In addition, juvenile probation officers should request and maintain periodic written reports from personnel of those agencies significantly involved with juveniles regarding the juveniles’ status in complying with supervision objectives.

In some jurisdictions, juvenile probation case files are subject to formal audits in which the file contents are examined by oversight agencies or by juvenile probation officers’ supervisors to determine if required information is included. Juvenile probation officers should be familiar with audit requirements and maintain files in such fashions as to facilitate the audit process.

Contents of juvenile probation case files may include, but not be limited to the following:

– Demographic information on juveniles and their families

– Court orders

– Detention records, including time served with any available reports about assessment or behavior while in custody

– Records of diversion attempts and results

– Assessment reports (risk, needs, strengths, mental health, substance abuse, health) and pre-disposition reports

– Victim information, including impact statements and plans for restoration

– Supervision plans

– Chronological contact sheets

– Interim progress reports

– Noncompliance reports, sanctions, and responses

– Court activities

– Case closure information

Note: Juvenile probation officers should use the Administrative Office of Court’s Juvenile Probation Services Module to promote efficient and consistent case management practices.
Measuring juvenile probation officers’ performance involves more than keeping track of contacts.
Most juvenile probation offices require juvenile probation officers to keep records, usually chronologically, of all pertinent contacts with juveniles and significant collateral contact with others in support of supervision plans and other activities. Juvenile probation officers often consider documenting contacts an onerous chore.

Nevertheless, some documentation is necessary—the trick is to make it easy and useful. The best way to measure juvenile probation officers’ performance is to record relevant information reflecting juveniles’ progress and compliance with the terms of supervision plans. In Alabama, the SJIS Probation Services Module may be used as an evaluation tool.

For each substantive contact, juvenile probation officers should record dates, persons contacted, and any observations, opinions, or actions taken. In addition to chronological records, juvenile probation officers should complete interim progress reports. Requiring progress information to be recorded provides the impetus for juvenile probation officers to periodically review and assess supervision activities and has real utility for both juvenile probation officers and supervisors-which should occur at least once every three months-more productive. They can review and discuss juveniles’ progress on plan objectives to date and the contacts and activities juvenile probation officers have conducted pursuant to cases.
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Information that may be recorded to track progress/ status/compliance
Community Safety Goals:

– attendance, excused and unexcused absences

– school disciplinary referrals

– suspensions

– expulsions

– compliance to curfews, electronic monitoring

– drug testing results

– new offenses and technical violations

Accountability Goals:

– community service performed

– restitution paid

– attendance at victim awareness sessions

– participation in victim/offender mediation

– letters of apology

Practical Rehabilitation Goals:

– grades

– attendance and successful completion of skill building,     education and treatment classes, trainings, and programs

Closing of cases present excellent opportunities to document intermediate outcomes achieved.

Juvenile probation supervision is concluded through successful closings or unsuccessful terminations. In either case, juvenile probation officers should capture some important pieces of information about juveniles’ performance in completing supervision plan objectives. Final case-closing summaries will provide evidence of the degrees to which objectives were or were not achieved. As opposed to long-term outcomes that measure the degrees of change in thinking, attitudes, or behaviors, intermediate outcomes measure performance in terms of completion or achievement of objectives while juveniles were under court supervision.
For each system goal, some intermediate
outcomes are:
Community Safety:

– Adjudication for new offenses while under supervision

– Violations of probation resulting in new adjudications while under supervision

– At time of case closings, were the juveniles: Attending schools? Attending GED classes or vocational training? Employed full-time or part-time?


– Amounts of restitution ordered/paid

– Hours of community service ordered/completed

– Victims’/juveniles’ conferences: Included in plans? Attendance? Successful completion?

– Victims’ awareness training: Included in plans? Attendance? Successful completion?

– Completion of letters of apology to victims: Included in plans? Attendance? Successful completion?

Practical Rehabilitation:

– Skill Building: Included in plans? Attendance? Successful completion?

– Cognitive Interventions: Included in plans? Attendance? Successful completion?

– Treatment Programs for Behavior Problems: Included in plans? Attendance? Successful completion?


– Why were the cases closed? Juveniles’
successfully completed obligations/plans; cases were terminated as unsuccessful (reason: discharged by the court on new charges, juvenile were convicted in adult courts, other).
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This information has immediate utility for juveniles, for courts, and victims and intrinsic values to the communities when aggregated for all closed cases and presented as annual report cards. Case closing summaries could be reviewed by judges at final hearings in order to give recognition to juveniles for successfully completing supervision.

At case closings, victims should be notified. If juveniles were supposed to pay restitution but were adjudicated on new offenses and received dispositions that preempted the supervision orders, victims should be told what options remain for collection of restitution or completion of the restoration process. If it is possible for victims to pursue civil actions to recoup losses, juvenile probation officers should explain that process.

Finally, case closures present excellent opportunities for juvenile probation offices to discover how satisfied juveniles on probation, their families, and their victims are with the services they received. Juvenile probation offices may choose to survey these clients for their perceptions of the legal process, the services provided, and the supervision requirements. Taking into account the bias that successful or unsuccessful terminations might impart to the survey responses, juvenile probation offices can still use the information to assess the quality of services provided.

Supervision Authority – Probation Orders
The purpose of probation is to clearly state the courts’ supervision provisions specific cases. In order to accomplish that purpose, the orders should include and address the following issues:

  • Jurisdiction

  • Findings

    - parties present
    - advisement of rights
    - juveniles were informed of allegations in the petitions
    - admitted/denied/tried/allegations
    - the acts alleged were committed by the juveniles

  • Specific adjudications

  • Findings of “need of care and rehabilitation”
    – Specific dispositions including terms, conditions, and    rules of supervision, care rehabilitation
    – Documentation of distribution of dissatisfaction
    – Signatures and printed names of judges
    – Dates of the orders

Supervision Authority – Termination of Supervision
Termination of supervision in consent decree cases should be administered by using the appropriate UJS forms. Terminations of orders of probation, aftercare, and other periods of supervision must also be terminated by court order. The orders of termination must address:

  • The dates the period of supervision began by the original orders.
  • The types of supervision to be terminated.
  • The collective numbers of “cases” to be effected by the termination orders.
  • Any remaining issues regarding collection of monies which may remain under the jurisdiction of the courts even though supervision is terminated.
  • Rights of any parties based on the facts that the termination orders are entered (i.e. sealing and/or destruction of records).
  • Compliance and or completion of the terms and conditions of supervision. When other dismissal, waiver or remittance is necessary, the orders must so state.

1 Carey, M., Goff, D., Hinzman, G., Neff, A., Owens, B., and Albert, I., (Spring 2000). “Filed Service Case Plans: Bane or Gain?” ,Perspectives.
2Lerner, K., Lerner, D., Arling, G., and Krohn, B. (September 1988). Strategies for Juvenile Supervision (training materials). Oakland, CA: National Council on Crime and Delinquency. Clear, T., and O’Leary, V. (1983). Controlling the Offender in the Community. Lexington, MA: Lexington Books.
3Hoge, R. and Andrews, D. (2001). The Youth Level of Service/Case Management Inventory Intake Manual and Item Scoring Key (Revised). Ottawa, ON: Careleton University.
4Carey et al., supra at n. 1.
5 Carey et al., supra at n. 1.
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In the Juvenile Court of AOC-Test County
In the matter of: ____________________, a child
             This case came to be heard on ___________________(date). Present in the court for the hearing were the above named child; his/her parent(s) or legal guardian(s); his/her attorney; the assistant district attorney; the juvenile probation officer; the petitioner; and other witnesses. The court first explained to the child the charges alleged in the petition filed, the nature of the proceedings, and the child’s rights in the proceedings. The child indicated to the court that he/she understood these explanations. The court then asked the child whether or not he/she admitted the allegations contained in the petition and the child responded that he/she:
Admitted the allegations contained in the petition.
Denied the allegations contained in the petition.
The court then proceeded to hear the evidence in the case.
After [hearing the evidence] or [finding the child’s admission to be voluntarily and knowingly made], the court finds the child did commit the acts ascribed in the petition and that the child is in need of supervision, treatment, rehabilitation, care and protection of the Sate of Alabama as alleged in the petition. On consideration of further evidence presented as to the proper disposition in this case, it is found to be in the best interest that he/she be placed on probation. It is therefore, ordered, adjudged and decreed that the above child is hereby declared and is committed to the custody of his/her _______________________________________.

It is further ordered that the child be; and hereby is place on probation for an indefinite period of time under the supervision of this court and subject to the following rules of probation, pending further orders of the court.
  1. Commit no further acts of delinquency.
  2. Cooperate with your probation officer.
  3. Do not use or be around anyone using alcoholic beverages or drugs of any kind.
  4. Obey all the rules of your parents/or guardian and of your probation officer especially any curfews limits; which are set at ___________________ on weekdays and ______________ on weekends.
    Unless accompanied by your parent/guardian.
  5. The child will submit to random drug testing at the direction of the juvenile court/probation officer.
The child is committed to the Alabama Department of Youth Services. However, this order is suspended until further orders of the court.
The child is ordered into and shall successfully complete the Department of Youth Services H.I.T. Program.
The child is to perform __________ hours of community services to be performed at the direction of the AOC-Test County Juvenile Probation Services.
The child is to obtain and or maintain a full time job and is to provide proof of employment to the court within ___________ days.
The child’s drivers license shall be suspended by the Alabama Department of Public Safety for _____________ days.
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The child is ordered to submit to a full physical and psychological evaluation according to Section 12- 15-70 Code of Alabama.
The child is to attend and complete the ______________________ D.U.I. School and provide proof of completion to the court.
The child’s parents are ordered to attend and successfully complete parenting classes at the AOC-Test County Department of Human Resources.
The child is ordered to attend counseling at the __________________ Mental Health Center, is to follow all the recommendations of his/her counselor, and is to attend all counseling sessions until released by his/her counselor.
The child is ordered into and shall successfully complete the AOC-Test County C.I.T.Y. Program and that said child’s parent/guardian are to cooperate fully with the staff of the C.I.T.Y. Program.
The child is to attend school and is to follow all the rules of the AOC-Test County Board of Education’s Student Handbook of the City Program Guidelines.
The child is to enroll in and successfully complete a G.E.D. Program and is to provide proof of enrollment to the court within _________ days.
The child is placed on home detention pursuant to the following terms and conditions.
The child is to be placed in detention until said child can be accepted into the ______________________________ Program or until further orders of this court.
The child is to be evaluated by the court referral officer and to complete all recommended treatment and to fulfill all financial obligations to the court referral officer.
Financial Order
The child is ordered to pay a fine in the amount of $_____________________ in each of the following cases ______________________________________________________________________________________ ________________________________________________________________________ The fine(s) listed above are to be paid by _________________(date).
The child is ordered to pay restitution in the amount of $_________________ in Case Number _____________ by _____________________(date) to the Circuit Clerk of AOC- test County to be disbursed to _____________________________________.
The child is ordered to pay a juvenile supervision fee in the amount of $______________ in each of the following case(s): _____________________________________________________________________________ _____________________________________________________________________________ The supervision fee(s) listed above is to be paid by _________________(date).
The child is ordered to pay costs in each of the following case(s): ____________________________________________________________________________ ____________________________________________________________________________ These are to be paid by _____________________(date).
The child’s parents are ordered to pay ___________________________________________.
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In this chapter , the following topics will be
  • promising probation approaches
  • useful probation techniques
  • practical skills all juvenile probation officers

Good juvenile probation supervision calls for a
flexible range of skills, approaches, and

The preceding chapters have traced the juveniledelinquency case process from intake to disposition,exploring the responsibilities of juvenile probation officers at each decision point and describing best practices for juvenile probation officers at each stage.This chapter will pause to focus more closely on a small number of skills, approaches, and techniques that characterize the best juvenile probation practice,including:

A. Restitution and community service enforcement

B. Victim-related strategies

C. School-based law enforcement and juvenile probation

D. Skill building and cognitive interventions

E. Strength-based practice

F. Intensive/team supervision

G. Aftercare

H. Effective interviewing

I. Probation officer safety techniques

Restitution and Community Service

Seeing that juveniles meet their restitution and community service obligations, if ordered by juvenile courts, is among the most important duties of juvenile probation officers. [See Sections 12-15-71(c) (4), and 12-15-32, Ala. Code 1975, and D.J.W. v. State, 705 So. 2d 52]


Restitution and community service are the juvenile justice system’s most basic tools for holding juveniles accountable. While their historic roots run deep, few sanctions make a better fit with the modern juvenile court’s mission and goals.

  • Juvenile accountability. Requiring juveniles to pay in some way for the damages they have done gives them an opportunity to understand the consequences of their wrongdoing and accept and acknowledge responsibility for it. That may be one reason why the use of restitution—including participation in paid community service in order to earn money to pay victims—has been associated with significant reductions in recidivism for some groups of juveniles.1

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To hold a child found to be delinquent accountable for his or her actions to the extent of the child's age, education, mental and physical condition, background, and all other relevant factors and to provide a program of supervision, care, and rehabilitation, including restitution by the child to the victim of his or her delinquent acts. §12-15-1.1 (7), Ala. Code 1975.

  • Victim restoration. When restitution is paid to victims in the form of money, it helps to compensate them for their losses and assure them of the system’s responsiveness to their needs.

  • Community reconciliation. When it takes the form of community service, it has the potential not only to benefit the public in tangible ways but to help reconcile juveniles with the communities they have offended.

Moreover, juvenile probation offices that give priority to ensuring restitution is paid to the victim and enforcement of community service obligations, if court ordered, can point to positive, measurable, "bottomline" accomplishments— amounts of restitution ordered/paid, number of victims compensated, hours of community service ordered/worked, total value of services rendered— that actually mean something to the public, and pay off in terms of broad community support for the court’s mission.


There are three broad types of "restitution" obligations: [straight] financial restitution, community service, and direct service to victims. Community service is the most common, probably because it is the easiest to administer. 2 Direct service is the most rare, in part because of victims’ reluctance to have contact with juveniles. However, in practice, these three program types may blend together. For example, many juvenile courts may organize work crews and even enter into janitorial, recycling, and other service contracts with public or private agencies in order to provide juveniles with jobs so that they can pay restitution. Others may use program funds to pay juveniles to perform public service work, with the money (or a portion of it) being likewise passed on to victims.

Although the general effect of the two program types is the same, the former would be called a restitution program, and the latter a community service program.

The Role of Juvenile Probation Officers

Pursuant to Section 12-17-225.1, Ala. Code 1975, district attorneys’ offices have authority to establish Restitution Recovery Divisions to collect payment of restitution and other court ordered monies, ordered by juvenile courts. Therefore, it should be the primary role of the District Attorneys’ offices in counties with Restitution Recovery Divisions, rather than juvenile probation offices, to collect restitution payments from juveniles. In counties with no restitution recovery division in District Attorneys’ offices, clerks should be collecting restitution pursuant to Rule 4, Alabama Rules of Judicial Administration. Juvenile probation officers should not be involved in collection of restitution payments unless juvenile court judges have specifically ordered such involvement. (See District Attorney Restitution Recovery Section in this chapter).

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Meaningful Community Service

Community service has enormous potential as a way to advance the goals of juvenile courts— that is, as a way to teach juveniles accountability, to expose them to good rolemodels and mentors, to help them acquire the skills and habits they will need to become law-abiding, productive citizens, and to visibly reintegrate them into the communities they have offended. Unfortunately, in many communities, this potential is largely untapped. Too often, community service work, when it is available at all, is mere make-work, imposed solely for punitive purposes, without any attempt to involve members of the public or to teach anything useful.


Realizing the potential of community service, if ordered by juvenile courts, as a restorative sanction requires juvenile probation officers to attend to a few basic principles. In general, community service should:

  • Involve the community. Too many community service programs make no effort to approach actual members of the communities, either to consult them regarding what work needs to be done or to enlist them as volunteers. However, programs in some jurisdictions do both. Rather than put juveniles to work washing police cars, they assign them to landscaping projects or graffiti clean-up in neighborhood business districts—with backing from local business and civic leaders, and help from community volunteers. Rather than shut them off in back offices to stuff envelopes, they bring them into senior centers, where they work with and benefit from elder role models.

  • Accomplish worthwhile tasks. Juveniles may be ordered by juvenile courts to cut firewood for needy local families, tend community gardens and donate their harvests to soup kitchens, restore trails and stream beds under the supervision of conservation groups, working with Habitat for Humanity to build homes—in other words, doing needed work, and being seen doing it.

  • Teach transferable skills. Good community service initiatives can help to convert juveniles from community liabilities into community assets, by teaching work habits, routines, and marketable skills that they can bring to other jobs. For juveniles who are literally starting from scratch—with no job histories, no references, nothing for dubious employers to check—these can be significant opportunities. Letters of recommendation making note of juveniles’ reliabilities, attitudes and performances, as well as any specific techniques mastered in the course of community service, can be a ticket to better things.

  • Bring recognition and a sense of accomplishment. Wherever possible, juvenile community service workers should be allowed to finish what they start, so that they can see and take pride in what they have accomplished. Public recognition for successful completion of community service, in the form of certificates of commendation and other small rewards, can also help to convince juveniles that they have indeed turned a corner—and are being welcomed back into their communities.

Note: The Attorney General has interpreted Section 12-15-1, Ala. Code 1975, to authorize the Juvenile Court to order a juvenile who has been found delinquent because of acts of vandalism in school to clean up or repair the “mess”(See 1983 WL 41859 (Ala.A.G.)


Source: Maloney, D., and Bazemore, G. (December 1994) “Making a Difference—Community Service Helps Heal Troubled Youths.” Corrections Today 56(7).

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Juvenile probation officers are key players when it comes to making restitution and community service work.

Whether juveniles’ restitution or service obligations are part of consent decrees or are imposed by court orders following adjudications of delinquency, juvenile probation officers may decide to do some or all of the following:

  • Determine eligibility for participation.

Juveniles' eligibility or appropriateness for restitution or community service should be governed by written and consistently applied policies. In general, however, obligations to pay restitution should be imposed whenever victims have suffered losses, whether or not these cases are formally petitioned.3 If juveniles are unemployed and indigent, job assistance or paid community service should be offered. Where there are identifiable victims who deserve compensation, unpaid community service should be imposed only if there is no better option.

  • Appropriate amounts.

Juvenile probation officers may consult with victims regarding losses. This may occur at the intake stage, in connection with the taking of victim impact statements, or during the preparation of pre-disposition reports. Where juvenile probation officers are responsible for soliciting loss information from victims, they should make it clear that district attorneys’ offices set high priority on enforcement of restitution. Assessing and verifying victims’ injuries and losses may be as simple as estimating the value of stolen or destroyed property and the cost of cleaning up, or as complicated as adding up medical expenses, lost wages, and long-term mental health treatment costs. Ideally, juveniles and their families should understand and accept victims’ loss claims; if there is a dispute, the matter can be settled through court hearings attended by the victims.4

Alabama Case Law: Restitution

In 1996 the Alabama Court of Criminal Appeals ruled that "A juvenile court that orders a delinquent juvenile to pay restitution may not delegate the authority to fashion the manner and amount of payment to an administrative agency." D.J.W. V. State, 705 So.2d 521 (Ala. Crim. App.1996).

That court did not prohibit the judge from requesting and receiving information from probation services but did make clear that judges should enter detailed orders directing how and how much restitution should be paid.

  • Determine payment/work schedule

The best practice is to make restitution and community service obligations part of case supervision plans. Juveniles and their parents should participate in fashioning payments and work schedules, which should be included in written agreements that clearly spell out expectations and defines what constitutes a breach or failure to perform.

  • Monitor performance.

If juveniles are unable to keep to the work or payment schedules agreed upon, the schedules should be adjusted. However, if juveniles are simply unwilling, sanctions must be available to enforce compliance. Modifications may include intensive supervision, house arrest, curfews, electronic monitoring, or even revocation of probation (See §12-15-74 & §12-15-75 Ala. Code 1975).

Specific Pay Plans

Court ordered pay plans should be time specific and include measurable payment schedules and directions allowing for clear determinations of violations.

  • Close cases.

Case closures are important for both victims and juveniles. Many jurisdictions have developed ceremonies for closing restitution cases. Sometimes, it is appropriate for juveniles to offer letters of apology to victims (If juveniles fail to fulfill restitution requirements and the cases are to be closed anyway, notification and explanation should be given to victims.) Juveniles who complete community service assignments sometimes get certificates of appreciation and/or letters of recommendation as well. (See "Meaningful Community Service.") It should be noted that case closures also present juvenile probation offices with opportunities to collect valuable information on its own performance—solid numbers reflecting amounts of restitution and community service ordered/ completed in each case, as well as the proportion of cases completing some or all of the restitution or community service ordered.

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Enforcement of Restitution
This section focuses closely on approaches and techniques that characterize the best juvenile probation practices of enforcing court-ordered restitution, fines and court costs. Juveniles are held accountable through the most basic tool of court-ordered monies in the form of restitution, fines, and costs.


Requiring juveniles to pay in some way for the damage they have done gives them an opportunity to understand the consequences of their wrongdoing and accept and acknowledge responsibility for it.


If juveniles are unable to adhere to work or payment schedules agreed upon, the schedules should be adjusted. However, if juveniles are simply unwilling, enforcement systems must be available to assist in the collection of monies owed to the court system and victims of crime. These may include intensive supervision, house arrest, curfews, electronic monitoring revocation of probation and restitution recovery.


In order for the enforcement systems to operate properly, fee sheets should be established on every disposed case.


Delinquent Payment Status

Juveniles are considered delinquent in payment when the court ordered full and timely payments are not met. Juveniles must make payments on time and in full in order to not be considered delinquent. If the defendants do not pay the full periodic amount specified on the fee sheets and enforcement maintenance screens, juveniles will be reported as being delinquent in payment. For example, if the juveniles are ordered to pay $100 per month and only pay $50, after 90 days, the offenders are considered delinquent in payment. Payments can be maintained by:


Enforcement Screens
Juvenile Probation Officers should use enforcement screens to track information about payment records of cases. Enforcement records are automatically built when criminal or traffic records are added to the system. Enforcement maintenance screens display information such as: location of juveniles, amounts to be paid by the juveniles, balances owed, dates of last payments, payment frequencies, dates and times of enforcement dockets and whether mailers and what type of mailers will be sent to offenders. The AOC management information system provides an enforcement screen.

District Attorney Restitution Recovery
District Attorneys’ offices in many circuits maintain separate restitution recovery divisions pursuant to Section 12-12-225, et seq. Ala. Code 1975 within their offices. Restitution specialists handle restitution orders and report to district attorneys. They are responsible for coordinating all of the restitution requirements. The main advantage of this model is that the staff can concentrate exclusively on collection and not be concerned with other responsibilities and requirements. The specialized unit arrangement also effectively separates two functions that may some times conflict – that of supporting juveniles in their efforts to comply with restitution orders and that of serving as collection agents for victims. In Alabama, unlike other States, juvenile probation officers generally do not assist victims, since this falls under the realm of the district attorneys’ offices.


Section 12-17-225, et seq., Ala. Code 1975, authorizes district attorneys to set up Restitution Recovery Divisions in their individual circuits. Some circuits are governed by local acts passed prior to the Act.

  • Payment Terms mailers are generated (five) days after the fees are established and no payments are made.

  • Pretrial Mailers. Pretrial mailers will be generated for traffic cases only.
  • Delinquency Mailers. Delinquency mailers will be generated based on the number of days delinquent as indicated in the enforcement profile.
  • District Attorney Mailers. The DA mailers are only generated when a case is turned over to the DA’s for collection.
  • Enforcement Mailers. Issuance of enforcement mailers will be controlled by the enforcement profile.
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Victim-Related Strategies

Victims’ advocates envision systems that would focus not only on justice for juveniles, but also on justice for victims.

Crime represents a profound expression of disrespect for victims as persons.5 The last thing victims need is a justice system that depersonalizes their experience or their involvement in seeking justice. Victims want the option of participating in that process and being treated fairly along the way. Beyond wanting justice for juveniles, victims— especially victims of violent crimes who are in the process of healing—must have their own needs addressed. Although some victim advocates have suggested that a separate or "parallel system of justice"6 is required, others point to several areas in which the existing justice system can and should improve in its responsiveness to victims:

  • Safe space. Victims deserve places to express, without judgment or blame, their anger and fears about the experience, even though their reactions may make others uncomfortable.
  • Restitution or reparation. While actual losses may be impossible to compensate, restitution and apologies symbolize restoration and demonstrate that someone other than the victims are responsible for the harm done.
  • Answers to questions. If victims want more information about what happened, why it happened, and what is being done about it, they should be able to get this information from juveniles and from people working in the system.
  • "Truth-telling." Victims need to tell their story to people who matter.
  • Empowerment. Power has been taken away from victims. They need to experience involvement and empowerment. 7

Juvenile probation officers should bear in mind that victims are entitled to full participation in the juvenile justice process.

Although juvenile probation supervision strategies have been aimed at protecting the public as a whole from further victimization, the interests of individual crime victims often are lost under the mass of paperwork and growing caseloads. 8 Treating crime victims fairly requires affirmative measures that not only allow but also encourage and assist victim participation. In Alabama, representation of victims is a function of the executive branch and not the juvenile probation office. However, juvenile probation officers are encouraged to assist in facilitating a process for victims to access services, receive appropriate referrals, and contact information for local district attorneys’ offices.


At the direction of juvenile courts, juvenile probation offices in conjunction with district attorneys’ offices should have clearly defined policies and procedures that delineate responsibility and accountability for the implementation, distribution, collection of restitution, and any other victim services.


Accountability sanctions involving victims require juveniles to be accountable for the harm they have caused, and to do something about it.
The discussion of restitution earlier in this chapter pointed out how, when juveniles are required to repay their victims, it gives them a valuable opportunity to understand the consequences of their wrongdoing, to accept and acknowledge responsibility for it, and to take action to repair the harm done. There are a variety of other victimrelated sanctions and programs that afford similar benefits—not only reinforcing the message of accountability for juveniles but engaging victims as full partners in the restorative process.9

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 Victim impact panels can help to teach empathy.10

Real understanding of the damages done by crime, and real empathy for crime victims, can be difficult for juveniles to attain. One teaching tool that can help here are victim impact panels, in which one or several wellprepared victims give presentations to equally prepared audiences of juveniles, concerning how crime affects not only primary victims but also the victims’ friends and families. The process gives victims a chance to be heard and a feeling of empowerment, and may help in the healing process. For juveniles, it is an "opportunity for personal growth"11 - a chance to see and hear firsthand from victims the financial, psychological, and physical impact of the crime, and to take away not just words but images that may stick with them and help to change their behavior.


Before attending victim impact panels, juveniles must have developed at least a minimal sense of the harm they have caused and the difficulty of ever repairing it. They should understand that attending panels do not make up for the harm they caused to their victims. Even though hearing about victims’ suffering may make them feel bad, they must be willing to set aside their feelings and listen closely to how victims feel.


Victim impact panels can be highly emotional for both victims and juveniles. Support must be offered to everyone involved, including:

  • opportunities to discuss how they feel about the information presented, time to talk and ask questions
  • feedback regarding their comfort level during the panel and any suggestions for future panels
  • instructions on whom to contact if they need more help processing their feelings.
School-Based Law Enforcement and
Juvenile Probation

Supervising juveniles in their schools produces many clear benefits to juvenile probation officers. In recent years, juvenile probation officers were expected to supervise juveniles in their caseloads without the help of law enforcement agencies. Today the State is moving out of this traditional practice. With the help of local, state, and federal grants, local law enforcement agencies are now in place at elementary, middle, and high school campuses throughout the State. This shift has enabled juvenile probation offices and local law enforcement agencies to unite in providing safe educational and working environments for students, staff, and the communities.

There are some obvious benefits to juvenile probation officers locating law enforcement officers on school campuses including, but not limited to:

  • More contact. More direct daily contact with juvenile probation officers leads to more accountability for juveniles. When juveniles see the working relationship between school resource officers (SROs) and juvenile probation officers, juveniles may be less likely to violate conditions of probation or engage in behavior that will lead to arrests
  • Better monitoring. Closer monitoring of juveniles and better observation of their behavior prevents or diffuses the temptation to violate conditions of their probation. Direct communications between SROs and juvenile probation officers allow for daily intervention/prevention of delinquent activities. This is true not only for delinquent activities but also for the monitoring of daily school attendance and school policy violations which can lead to school disciplinary actions.
  • Focus on school success. SROs strive to prevent juvenile delinquency through close contact with students, school personnel, and juvenile probation officers. The initial placement of SROs will result in elevated numbers of arrests, probation violations, and complaints. However, this will decrease after the initial implementation and response to the needs of the juveniles are met.
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The essential components of SRO programs include, but not limited to:

  • Law enforcement presence on campuses dealing with any law and safety/public order-related issues.

  • Classroom resources for instruction in the following areas: (1) law related education programs, (2) violence prevention/diffusion programs; (3) safety programs; (4) alcohol and drug prevention programs; (5) crime prevention programs; and (6) citizenship programs.

  • Team partners to include SROs, school staff, and juvenile probation officers, working to solve problems in communities.

  • Positive resources for students that will enable them to associate with law enforcement figures in the students’ environment.

  • Counseling resources, in the areas that may affect the educational environment but may be law-related in nature.

  • Formulation of educational crime prevention programs to reduce the opportunity for crimes against persons and property in the schools.

Other Issues Between Schools and Juvenile
Probation Officers

Juvenile probation officers must not serve as school attendance officers. [See Attorney General Opinion 2000- 237.] Juvenile probation officers must not distribute information or records concerning juveniles to schools. In accordance with Alabama Administrative Code 290-3- 1.02(4)(i), "the school attendance officer should be notified by the juvenile probation officer of all children in school system under probation supervision by the juvenile court as consistent with state statute." [See §12-15-100, 105(a), Code of Ala. 1975].

The best practice for juvenile probation officers to comply with the above regulation is to refer school personnel who may wish to obtain this information to Section 12-5-100(a)(7), Ala. Code 1975, which mandates that school principals file written requests with courts to obtain this information. Also, the schools may obtain information pursuant to Section 12-15-105, Ala. Code 1975, providing that schools be notified of information concerning children adjudicated delinquent of Class A and B felonies or misdemeanors at the discretion of the court.

Skill Building

One of the broad goals of the juvenile justice system—perhaps its highest goal— is to help juveniles change

Throughout this Guide, the term "practical rehabilitation" has been used to designate concrete measures aimed at helping juveniles change and grow into law-abiding, productive adults. Juvenile probation officers may contribute to the work of practical rehabilitation in three basic ways, depending upon the needs of the juveniles involved and depending on what juvenile court orders state:

  • Skill building. Some juveniles placed on probation may need help developing or improving living, learning-, and working-skills—that is, the skills everyone must master in order to live peacefully as responsible, contributing members of their communities. Among advocates of the balanced approach to juvenile probation, practical rehabilitation that focuses on skill-building generally goes by the name of "competency development."12

  • Cognitive interventions. In order to become law-abiding adults, some juveniles may also need to make more fundamental changes in the way they think, make decisions, or solve problems. (See "Cognitive Interventions.")

  • Treatment. Juveniles with certain kinds of specific, serious problems—such as substance abuse issues or mental illnesses—may need referral for treatment services as well. (See the discussion of the treatment needs of various "Special Populations" in the next Chapter.)
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While practical rehabilitation may focus directly on the needs of individual juveniles, it also serves larger community goals—especially the goal of securing the public from the danger posed by unskilled, alienated, and sometimes seriously impaired juveniles.

Juvenile probation offices should ensure that young juveniles leave the system more capable of living peacefully and productively than when they entered.

The precise knowledge and skills juveniles need will vary from one community to another—from a farming community to an urban one, for example. However, there are core skills that all juveniles should possess in order to grow into successful, productive adults:13

  • Basic living skills: Personal hygiene/health, home management (cooking, cleaning), money management, etc.

  • Social skills: Intra-personal skills (understanding own emotions and practicing self-discipline) and interpersonal skills (able to get along with others, cooperation, empathy, conflict resolution).

  • Academic skills: Age-appropriate reading, writing, and math skills, knowledge of and interest in continued learning and advancement, ability to express oneself creatively.

  • Vocational skills: Knowledge of work/career options, work experience, involvement in leisure and family activities.

Skill development measures should involve juveniles in productive, experiential activities that provide some potential benefits to them and to others. They should build up assets and strengths. They should help juveniles to develop positive relationships with others, exhibit positive behavior in conventional roles, increase academic, vocational, and social skills, and increase bonding to pro-social groups.

Examples of Skill-Building Interventions
  • Work experience – job training programs, apprenticeships
  • Experiential programs (learning by doing)
  • Tutoring programs
  • Leadership development
  • Family and independent living skills training
  • Youth development (strength-based) programs

Helping juveniles develop living, learning, and working-skills begins at intake.
Incorporating skill-building into juvenile probation practice involves assessment, goal-setting, and concrete activities pursued as part of written case plans:

  • Assessment of needs and strengths. Assessments of juveniles' needs and strengths is necessary in order to determine what programs and activities are needed to enhance the juveniles' existing skills while teaching any new skills that may be required. The strengths and resources of juveniles' families and communities should also be considered. Assessments can be as simple as asking a few questions at intake, or as involved as conducting interviews with juveniles and their families, gathering information from court and school records, etc.
  • Goal-setting. After juveniles' skill development needs are assessed, the next step is to determine the intermediate outcomes that are important for juveniles to achieve before leaving the juvenile justice system. These intermediate outcomes may include better academic, social, and occupational skills; improved sense of bonding to others and belonging in their communities; and greater propensity to engage in pro-social, acceptable behavior. They may also include changes in how others view juveniles.
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Cognitive Interventions

"Cognitive interventions" attempt to change juveniles’ ways of thinking. If delinquent behavior is due to errors or serious distortions in juveniles’ thinking processes, or cognitive interventions may be appropriate. In general, the goals of cognitive interventions are to improve the following:

  • Reasoning skills
  • Understanding of the consequences of behavior
  • Capacity to stop and think before acting
  • Decision-making and problem-solving skills
  • Interpersonal skills (including empathy and understanding of the thoughts, feelings, views and motivations of other people).

Cognitive skills training addresses deficiencies in problem-solving skills, interpersonal skills, and conflict resolution skills. By isolating situations that result in juveniles acting in anti-social ways, making connections between behavior problems and thinking problems, and developing good thinking skills, cognitive skills interventions aim to increase juveniles’ ability to use their thinking skills when faced with such situations in the future.


Cognitive restructuring is for juveniles with more serious character deficits, who need to change their moral reasoning, values, and beliefs—to learn to accept responsibility for the consequences of their own actions, for example, to think of others and their feelings, to feel remorse, to refrain from shifting blame and making excuses. Cognitive restructuring seeks to identify habits and patterns of thinking, attitudes, and beliefs that are distorted, irrational, or inappropriate, to challenge these thinking errors, and to help juveniles understand how they may lead to anti-social behaviors. The purpose of cognitive restructuring is to reshape the juveniles’ thought processes and to help them learn how to think rationally and deliberately before acting in response to stimulating or threatening situations.


Sources: Taymans, J. & Jurich, S. (Fall 2000). "Overview of Cognitive-Behavioral Programs and Their Applications to Correctional Settings." Perspectives. Lexington, KY: American Probation and Parole Association. Thorton, T., Craft, C., Dahlberg, L., Lynch, B., and Baer, K. (2000). Best Practices of Youth Violence Prevention: A Sourcebook for Community Action. Atlanta, GA: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Injury Prevention and Control. Ross, R., and Fabiano, E. (1985). Time to Think: A Cognitive Model of Delinquency Prevention and Ofender Rehabilitation. Johnson City, TN: Institute of Social Science and Arts, Inc. Carey, M. (1997). Cog Probation. (Spring 1997). Perspectives. Lexington, KY: American Probation and Parole Association.


Action steps to desired outcomes.
The findings of the assessments and the goals set should be incorporated into the supervision plans for juveniles. Those plans should consist of action steps— participation in programs and activities— that are calculated to bring about the competency development outcomes desired.

Effective skill-building programs share a few key

Success in this area depends on a variety of factors, including the motivations of juveniles. Interventions should aim at developing protective factors, the healthy beliefs, the clear standards, and the pro-social bonding that research has shown reduces the risk that juveniles will commit crimes.14 Successful programs tend to have the following features:15

  • Juveniles are viewed as resources, not as problems. Programs should focus on the strengths juveniles possess, rather than on their weaknesses. Treating juveniles as resources and as important people who are encouraged to make positive contributions to society can bring about lasting changes in how juveniles feel about themselves and about their place in the communities.
  • Interesting and valued activity. Participants should be involved in something that is of value to the communities, but that is also of interest to them. If they are doing something that interests them, they may be more likely to stick with the programs as well as put more effort into achieving its goals.
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  • Interaction with conventional adults in their
    Juveniles need to learn how to "survive and thrive" in their families and communities.16 Positive relationships with law-abiding adults who model pro-social, acceptable behaviors may help them accomplish this.

  • Opportunities to practice new skills. It is important that juveniles be able to practice the skills they are learning. Practicing new skills while engaging in healthy activities can lead to positive reinforcement from others and can increase the juveniles’ selfesteem. In addition, juveniles who are actively, visibly involved in community programs may help to improve the public’s view of the juvenile justice system.

  • Community involvement. Community groups are stakeholders in the process of juveniles’ rehabilitation. Communities should become partners with the juvenile justice system by developing new opportunities for juveniles to learn positive social skills while also contributing to the good of the communities.17Community members should make efforts to reintegrate juveniles and build on their strengths by accepting them into their community groups, modeling acceptable behaviors, and allowing juveniles to practice new skills and competencies.

Strength-Based Practice

The strength-based approach to working with juveniles identifies their strengths and resources and builds on them.18

Strength-based practice helps juveniles and their families to identify strengths and competencies and to discover how to apply them toward solutions. It engages them as active participants and increases both cooperation and motivation. The necessary first step is to believe juveniles and their families have strengths and resources that can be used to stop troublesome behavior. The second step is to use methods that help juveniles identify these strengths and competencies for effective case planning and behavior change.

Strength-based practice differs from traditional approaches in the way it applies basic principles:

  • Accountability. Accountability is realized through behavioral and cognitive changes, rather than through passive (verbal) admissions of guilt. Efforts toward accountability concentrate on beginning "first steps" and initiating actions. Strength-based practice expects and demands change, rejecting the limiting dichotomy that juveniles either "refuse to" change or "cannot" change.

  • Future orientation. Strength-based practice is concerned about solutions rather than the causes of problems. It focuses on finding practical ways to solve the presenting problems through mutual exploration of possible solutions.

  • Juvenile autonomy. As far as possible, strength-based practice allows juveniles to define the problems and choose the courses of action. Even in mandated dispositions, it gives choices in the "how." For example, without negotiating the basic issues of sobriety/abstinence from illicit drugs or alcohol, juvenile probation officers could let the juveniles choose the “how” for achieving and maintaining abstinence/sobriety.

  • Optimism. Juvenile probation officers’ beliefs in juveniles’ ability to change can be a significant determinant of outcome. Expectations of change and improvement influence juveniles’ behavior. Strengthbased practitioners believe in the ripple effect in which small changes can bring major improvements.

  • Respect. Strength-based probation practice explores the juveniles and their families’ definition of, and answer to, the problems and values their ideas and perceptions.

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Problem-centered Approach vs. Strength-based Approach

Approaches juveniles with attention to their failures, dysfunctions
and deficits, with eyes to fixing their flaws.

Approaches juveniles with a greater concern for their strengths, competencies, and possibilities, not only to fix what is wrong but to nurture what is best.

Assumes "expert" roles in naming the juveniles’ problems and then instructing clients how to fix them.

Assumes juveniles to be competent and "expert" on their life and situation. Helps juvenile offenders discover how strengths and resources can be applied to negotiate third-party concerns and mandates while also furthering their wants and concerns as well.

Sanction-focused: juveniles “take the punishment” without taking responsibility or earning redemption.

Incentive-focused: holds juveniles accountable while furthering their pro-social interests, skills or passions.

Route to solution: fix the problem.

Route to solution: strengthen connection to juveniles’ competencies, past successes, positive interests and wants.

Goals are obedience and compliance.

Initial goals are obedience and compliance; final goals are behavior change and growth.

No direct strategies are used for building motivation. Relies on coercion and “pushing from with-out.”

Employs specific principles and strategies for building juveniles’ motivation to change. Uses sanctions to stabilize out-of-control behavior but works to raise motivation that comes from within.

Courts have non-negotiable mandates and juvenile probation officers determine both the goals and the means for reaching those goals.

Courts have non-negotiable mandates but beyond these, juveniles are partners in the process of setting personalized goals. Juvenile probation officers help them focus on what they want to change, maintains the focus, and works to increase positive options.

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Juvenile probation officers have numerous opportunities to apply strength-based techniques.
Specific strength-based techniques include the following:

  • Place bets. If some improvements are noted and juvenile probation officers would like the juveniles to continue, they should challenge their desire to be more mature by betting them that they cannot keep it up. Outcomes should be left up to the juveniles. (E.g., “I’m really split. Part of me believes you’ll be able to keep doing this since you’re already doing it; yet another part of me thinks that some 15-year-olds have difficulty in making long-term commitments. What are your feelings/reservations about continuing along this path?)

  • Recruit consultants. When juveniles or their family members have found some success, they should be treated as consultants—giving them a sense of ownership of the skill or behavior change. (e.g., “You really have a handle on this. So many other teens (families, parents) don’t have a clue about how to do this (start this, stop this), yet you do. I sure wish you’d talk to them and tell them how to do it.”)

  • Percentage questions. Many times juveniles get stuck in a negative or limiting view of the problem that does not allow change or positive movement. Some kinds of questions can help them get unstuck. (e.g., "How much of the problem is never going to change or how much of it could be that things just aren’t going very well for you right now? 80/20? 60/40?" "How much of this trouble came from your friends and how much might have been your bad decision-making? 70/30?")

  • Expression of surprise. At the end of assessments, after problems and strengths have been reviewed, juveniles should ask the question, "How did someone like you, with all these past successes, get into this trouble?"

  • Success Amplification. Juvenile probation officers should follow up on past success by looking at it from many different sides, by asking "how" questions. (e.g., "How did you do that? How did you know that would work? What does this say about you?")

  • What works. More than likely, juvenile probation officers are not the first people to work with these juveniles or families. Juvenile probation officers should ask juveniles what types of approaches have been successful and unsuccessful in the past.

  • Exception questions. This is the prime strategy of the solution-focused therapy model. Juvenile probation officers should look for what juveniles and families do when problems are not occurring or chronic conditions have improved and get them to repeat these same strategies in the future. (e.g., "Tell me about times when the problem did not occur? When was the most recent time when you were able to (perform the desired behavior)? What is different about those times?")

  • Survival questions. Juvenile probation officers should convey respect for juveniles’ resilience in the face of adversity. This can help bring out internal or external resources. (e.g., “I know things are tough now, but I’m really interested in finding out just how you’ve survived? How have you kept going even with these problems?”)

Future-oriented questions. Future-oriented questions are critical for goal setting. Goals that are meaningful and productive come from getting juveniles to look ahead and describe what would have to be different for the current problem to be solved or improved. (e.g., "If, one year into the future, the problems you experience today were solved or made better, what would be happening then that’s not happening today?")

Intensive/Team Juvenile Probation

Intensive juvenile probation is intended to serve as a safe alternative to detention for certain kinds of juveniles. Adjudicated juveniles who might otherwise be sent to juvenile detention are instead targeted in many counties for intensive supervision in communities. Although it has come to be considered a “specialized” form of juvenile probation, observers have pointed out that the basic elements of the intensive approach—low caseloads, close monitoring, frequent and wide-ranging contacts as an alternative to institutional commitment— are what juvenile probation was always meant to be. 19

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Intensive juvenile probation approaches vary from jurisdiction to jurisdiction, but in general they feature:20

– Smaller caseloads, ranging from 5 to 20 juveniles placed on probation per juvenile probation officer.

– Surveillance expanded to ensure 7 day-a-week, 24 houra- day coverage.

– A greater reliance on unannounced spot checks; these may occur in a variety of settings, including homes, schools, known hangouts, and job sites.

– More collateral contacts with family members, friends, staff from other agencies, and concerned residents in communities.

– Stricter probation conditions, including earlier curfews and more rigid curfew enforcement.

– A schedule of graduated sanctions with immediate consequences for violations. (See the discussion of “Graduated Sanctions/Incentives” in the preceding chapter on “Supervision.”)

Each court must make its own determination concerning the types of juveniles who will qualify for intensive supervision in their communities. Decisions regarding who should receive intensive supervision should be based on individualized assessments and structured by written guidelines, like all other decision-making relating to dispositions for juveniles. (See chapter on “Disposition Recommendations.”) In general, however, intensive juvenile probation should be reserved for juveniles whose offenses and offense histories are serious enough to justify detention but who, given sufficient supports and monitoring, can be safely supervised in the communities. One influential intensive supervision program model targets chronic juveniles (those who have a history of multiple offenses, and possibly of failure in ordinary probation, which might together lead to institutional commitment) and serious but nonviolent juveniles (including juveniles who have committed serious crimes such as drug trafficking).21
Intensive juvenile supervision is often conducted
by teams.
Approaches to intensive caseload management vary, but many programs utilize a team approach, pairing (1) surveillance officers whose primary responsibilities are monitoring conduct and investigating possible violations of court orders; and (2) field service juvenile probation officers, whose primary responsibilities are providing the traditional casework management and services that comprise much of standard probation supervision. This division of duties clarifies the specific relationships that juveniles under supervision must develop with their juvenile probation officers. Moreover, it avoids the stress that results from a single officer’s responsibility for conflicting (enforcement/support) roles.

A second approach to team supervision of intensive juveniles placed on probation uses two-to-four person teams, with team members sharing the responsibilities of case management equally. The strategy underlying this approach is one of saturation: team members provide supervision and control over juveniles during all hours of the night and day, weekdays and weekends. The approach is clearly linked to the perceived need to provide a greater degree of community protection when high-risk juveniles are under community-based supervision. Because each team member knows the problems and needs of all the juveniles in the shared caseload, each is capable of responding whenever a crisis arises.

Most intensive probation programs feature some contact and cooperation with law enforcement. For instance, intensive probation officers may receive law enforcement information about juveniles on the intensive caseload and the restrictions to which they are subject. Surveillance officers may have police radios in their cars.
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Aftercare programs, services, and strategies help assure juveniles’ successful transition from residential placements to life in the communities. [See §§12-15- 1.1(5), 12-15-1(2), 44-1-36(d) (e), Ala. Code 1975.]

Too often, when juvenile offenders are sent away to residential placements, local juvenile courts and probation departments do little or nothing to keep tabs on them. When the juveniles have "done their time," they are simply released and returned, with little or nothing in the way of preparation, monitoring, or services. Institutional treatment ends, institutional structure is withdrawn, and nothing takes their places. Rehabilitative progress evaporates quickly. Old habits and associations reassert themselves. Adjustment failures and recidivism often follow.

The juvenile justice system’s response, in a broad sense, has been to attempt to build better bridges between institutional and community environments, through aftercare or reentry programs and services. These may include parole-style supervision, monitoring and testing as well as counseling and treatment services, training and mentoring, and other forms of post-institutional help. See §§ 12-15-1(21)(d), 12-15-7(a)(4), Ala. Code 1975 (Supervision by juvenile probation officers).

Aftercare approaches vary. However, any well-designed aftercare strategy will impose concrete, enforceable expectations on returning juveniles, with a reliable method of verifying compliance and a coherent structure of incentives and sanctions for noncompliance. It will offer some level of intensified surveillance, enhanced services, or both, to those at serious risk of failure/recidivism, and will use formal risk/eligibility assessments to target those interventions carefully. In addition, it will rely as much as possible on partnerships with community resources and support systems to do the work of reintegration.
Alabama Alternative Schools
Alabama juvenile courts have authority to order juveniles, under certain circumstances, to attend alternative schools to assist juvenile offenders during or after commitment to juvenile facilities.

Section 12-15-71 provides in pertinent part, as follows:

(k) When the court finds a juvenile to be delinquent and commits the juvenile to a juvenile detention facility, boot camp, or to the Department of Youth Services, but the juvenile detention facility, boot camp, or the Department of Youth Services is unable to take the juvenile due to a lack of space and the juvenile in enrolled in public school, unless good cause is shown that the juvenile should not attend an alternative school, the court shall order that the juvenile attend an alternative school if an alternative school is available pending availability of space at the facility.

(l) After completion of a term of commitment with the Department of Youth Services and when the juvenile is admitted back into public school, the juvenile shall be placed in an alternative school until such time when he or she meets all requirements set by the local board of education.

(m) When a court, upon holding a hearing pursuant to Section 12-15-34, orders a juvenile case to be transferred to the circuit court for criminal prosecution and the juvenile is enrolled in public school, unless good cause is shown that the juvenile should not attend an alternative school, the court shall order that the juvenile attend an alternative school if an alternative school is available until disposition of the criminal charges in the circuit court. If the criminal charges result in conviction and the juvenile is sentenced to a term of imprisonment in a penal facility, then the juvenile shall remain in an alternative school pending the serving of the sentence. After completion of the sentence or if the juvenile is convicted but not sentenced to a term of imprisonment in a penal facility, when the juvenile is admitted back into school, the juvenile shall remain in an alternative school until such time as he or she meets the requirements set by the local board of education.
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(n) The juvenile court is authorized to release the order referred to in subsections (k), (l), and (m) to the appropriate local school board where the public school or public schools in which the juvenile attempts to enroll are located. No hearing pursuant to Section 12-15-100 governing the confidentiality of juvenile records is required to release the order to the school board.

(o)(1) If a juvenile age 16 or over is enrolled in school and is charged with a crime pursuant to Section 12-15-34.1, or is charged with distribution of a controlled substance, then upon notice or knowledge of the charge, the local public school system shall assign the juvenile to an alternative school, if an alternative school is available, unless good cause is shown that the juvenile should not attend an alternative school (It is not the responsibility of the juvenile probation officer to provide this notice). The decision to assign a student to an alternative school shall include a review and consideration of the exceptional status of the student pursuant to Chapter 39 of Title 16, if applicable, and any appropriate federal and state statutory and case law.

(2) Any person convicted of a crime specified in subdivision (1) and readmitted to the public schools of this state shall attend an alternative school until the juvenile meets the requirements set by the local board of education.

Effective Interviewing

Juvenile probation officers should know how to conduct effective interviews.
A national survey found that juvenile probation officers regarded basic interviewing techniques to be the most important skill for juvenile probation officers to possess upon hiring or to acquire early in their careers.xxii Juvenile probation officers need expertise in eliciting from juveniles and collateral sources information that is pertinent to the facts of the delinquency charge or an assessment of a given juveniles’ supervision and rehabilitation needs. Intake officers and investigators must interview in order to determine appropriate intake dispositions, write predisposition investigation reports, and make disposition recommendations. Juvenile probation officers engaged in supervision must be able to talk with persons involved in a case and use interviewing skills to achieve the goals of each exchange while keeping intact working relationships.
Some people are naturally good at relating to people and getting them to talk about themselves. Others are not. However, good interviewing involves a collection of specific skills that can be learned. Like other skills, interviewing techniques may be collected over the course of time by trial and error or assimilation, or they can be learned from instructors with special expertise. The latter approach is preferred: administrators should either hire the services of interviewing trainers or enable line officers to attend such training wherever possible. Some regional and national training conferences offer skill training in interviewing. The "Fundamental Skills Training Curriculum for Juvenile Probation Officers" developed by the National Center for Juvenile Justice and the National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges covers interviewing techniques as well.

Good interviewing takes preparation and clear

Planning and preparation go into successful interviews. Assessment forms may be used for each interview, or various contact forms may be routinely used to track interactive behavior. If juveniles’ parents, legal guardians, or legal custodians are interviewed, consent forms should be ready for any records concerning juveniles. Where interviews are directed to particular problems encountered in the course of managing cases and monitoring juveniles, planning will be necessary in order to avoid being sidetracked by interviewees.

In interviewing witnesses or police, juvenile probation officers should decide what information they need from each person to complete their tasks before beginning the interviews. It is always important, however, to keep an open mind as the encounter progresses, so that opportunities will not be missed to follow up on new or unexpected information.
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Begin interviews with "easy" questions.
It is important to set an informal tone for interviews.

Juvenile probation officers should avoid conducting interviews from behind their desks. Opening questions— after juvenile probation officers have introduced themselves, explained their roles, stated the purposes of the interview, and how the information will be used— should be basic ones: full name, address, etc. Interviewees should not be rushed toward the real goals of interviews until they have become somewhat comfortable and have established a threshold rapport. If possible, positive involvements in the goals of the interviews by the interviewees should be achieved.

Steer clear of leading questions. It can be all too easy to "lead" interviews. Even experienced investigators, anxious to get to the heart of the matter, often do all the talking, with interviewees simply affirming or denying what the interviewers say. Any information interviewers record as a result of such a onesided exchange is more likely to reflect the interviewers’ point of view than the interviewees’.

Sometimes interviewees want to be led. They may be somewhat nervous throughout the interviews, and especially uneasy when talking about the information. Accordingly, they may take the easy approach of "sounding out" what juvenile probation officers want so that they can be on their way, and so that they do not have to be uncomfortable any longer than necessary. Phrasing questions in such a way that interviewees can figure out which answers will "satisfy" juvenile probation officers should be avoided.

Whenever possible, open-ended questions should be asked that invite interviewees to narrate. The narrations will be the interviewees’ points of view. Listen to the narrations, considering what may be left out as well as the extras that are included, such as attitudes, demeanor and body language. Letting interviewees narrate gives them a chance to “tell the story” and often helps establish rapport between interviewers and interviewees. After listening to the narrations, specific questions should be asked to fill out the picture painted by the interviewees. Juvenile probation officers should be careful not to probe too aggressively: it is unlikely that interviewees will want to be totally candid with juvenile probation officers on first interviews as to sensitive matters. At times, when such a rush of unburdening occurs, interviewees later feel vulnerable and defensive and further contacts may be difficult or unproductive.
Common interviewing mistakes that should be

Juvenile probation officers should never interrupt or cut off answers or finish sentences for halting interviewees. Juvenile probation officers should learn to endure temporary silence. Interviewees may be collecting their thoughts.

Beware of the too-vague frame of reference: talk about "this week," not "in general." Also, juvenile probation officers should ascertain that the interviewees are addressing specific events or times frame, rather than general conditions.

Avoid system jargon, unless the interviewee is a police officer. In general, juvenile probation officers should adjust their vocabulary and style of speech to that of the interviewees. However, juvenile probation officers should only use styles they are comfortable with—street slang sounds fake if it is forced. Consider the educational level and cultural background of the interviewees and select language that they will understand. Be alert to answers that are off the point or overly brief. These may be two signs that the questions are not being understood. Rephrase them—but avoid appearing to talk down to the interviewees. Go back to a point in the interview where the interviewees seemed to understand the questions and resume.

"Active listening" and other simple techniques help interviewers get past common roadblocks. When interviewees appear nervous, frightened, distracted or confused, the interviewer should make additional efforts to put them at ease, perhaps by sustained inquiry into background issues that are simple and not emotion-laden. It may help to reassure the interviewee about the process and the system’s routines and to elicit the interviewee’s concerns, if any, in this area. Keep questions simple and be particularly careful not to jump around from topic to topic. Juvenile probation officers should maintain calm and patience.
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When talking about difficult or sensitive matters, interviewers should be concerned but use neutral approaches, and be especially careful to make sure to understand what the interviewees are saying. Because of the sensitivity of certain topics and the behavior of some interviewees, it is easy for interviewers to hurry past awkward details and to make assumptions. Make sure the facts are understood, while accepting the interviewee’s attitudes and feelings without judging, and then move on.

When interviewees are emotional or display strong opinions or attitudes, adopt an “active listening” strategy. Active listening involves listening to the speaker and distinguishing substance from emotional content and mirroring back to the speaker the emotional content of their message. Speakers delivering “charged” messages need to know that the emotional aspects of the messages have been heard and that their expressions and feelings are acceptable. Listeners’ acknowledgements of the emotional content build trust and enable interviewers to inquire into the substance of the communications. Empathy is established when interviewers correctly assess the feeling and intensity level and paraphrase it to the interviewees, checking the interviewees’ responses. A second “active listening” may be required, if the speaker “corrects” the listener. As the interviewee becomes less emotional, the inter-viewer switches to paraphrasing the substantive portion of the communication, checking with the interviewee for accuracy.

Where the barrier is more one of attitudes or values, try to identify the positive value underlying the expression; this will usually involve turning the interviewee’s negative expression around the restatement.

For manipulative, evasive or excessively talkative interviewees, keep questions simple and specific and establish eye contact. Be clear and confident and require answers to your questions, restating them where necessary. Be aware of your body language and that of the interviewee. Also, note that as with speech, there are cultural differences in body language. Be careful not to misinterpret body language of persons from different cultures.
Special considerations apply to interviews with juvenile offenders.
When interviewing a juvenile offender, bear in mind that a contact with you may color the juvenile’s entire attitude toward the system:

– Don’t try to make the juvenile too comfortable; he has a problem and should accept and experience it.

– Keep the juvenile aware of all the possible contingencies in the system, so as to avoid an undermining shock.

– Don’t be late for contacts, as it suggests that you and the system are untrustworthy and the juvenile is unimportant.

– Don’t “play games” to try to catch the juvenile in a lie; check out informational discrepancies elsewhere.

– At all times maintain your professional role.

– If your objectivity is lost, ask your supervisor to evaluate the situation and transfer the case if necessary.

Conclude with a summary of what has been learned.
When the purpose of the interview is to gather facts from a witness about an event or particular matter, you should conclude with a brief summary of what has been covered in the course of the interview. This may prompt further information from the interviewee concerning something previously overlooked. If there will be any follow-up with this interviewee, such as a second meeting or submission of written materials, confirm this.
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When the interview has been with the juvenile or the family or other concerned individuals, or when the interview was arranged to work out a particular issue, a summary is also in order; however, in such cases it may be more effective if the interviewee does the summation. This provides another opportunity for the interviewer to assess the interviewee’s understanding and interest in cooperation as well as to discover gaps or matters overlooked. The interviewer might prompt this participation by asking “What do you think we have accomplished in this interview?” or “How does the situation look to you now?”

When the work of the interview is over, you should offer a gesture of closure and thanks. Some interviewers stand and move toward the door. Some ask whether the interviewee has anything more to say. Learn your own technique for ending an interview when you have accomplished all that you can expect to accomplish.

Probation Officer Safety Techniques

Juvenile probation officers and their offices must recognize and manage personal safety risks.
Probation officers and their offices have become increasingly concerned about personal safety issues in recent years, and justifiably so. Today’s juvenile probation caseloads include many more serious and potentially violent offenders than in the past.23 Drugs are more prevalent in many of the communities in which juvenile probation officers work, and weapons more readily available.

Juvenile Probation Officers in Alabama are not considered to be law enforcement and are prohibited from carrying firearms in the performance of their duties. Ultimately, the safety of individual juvenile probation officers depends more than anything else on the thoroughness and care with which their offices have anticipated dangers and developed plans for meeting them—through clear policies and procedures and safety-related training.
All juvenile probation departments should adopt comprehensive policies governing staff safety and safety training.
The APPA recommends that every probation office establish a “Safety Committee” to address the following issues:24

  • Pre-employment notification regarding safety issues.

  • Case supervision practices that minimize danger to staff.

  • Office safety precautions.

  • Field safety plans regarding such measures as the pairing of probation officers engaged in field work, cooperation with local law enforcement, etc.

  • Incident reporting forms and investigation procedures for situations involving threats, altercations, arrests, etc.

  • Training in safety skills, safety awareness, and safety issues specific to each staff member’s responsibilities.

  • Organizational strategy for responding to staff safety issues, problems, and concerns as they arise.

Office policies and probation officer training should cover such safety-related matters as search and arrest procedures, transportation of juveniles, use of restraint, use of force, and proper conduct of home visits and field contacts. On the subject of home visits, for example, a thorough office manual will lay out what a probation officer should do in preparation for a visit, what notice and sign-out procedures apply, what circumstances call for back-up from law enforcement, what safety equipment should be brought, how the home should be approached, what should be done upon entry to secure the interior, how the visit should be conducted so as to minimize danger, and what steps should be taken when safety is compromised. Training for home visits might cover such matters as environmental scanning techniques and identifying and clearing escape routes.
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All probation officers should scan their personal office area for items that could be used as weapons. Paperweights can be used as projectiles. Things such as tape dispensers, staplers and telephones can be used as weapons. Even holders with pencils, pens and files should be kept out of reach of probationers.

Experienced probation officers rely on interpersonal communication, awareness, and conflict resolution skills to minimize threats to personal safety.
The first lines of defense for juvenile probation officers in potentially dangerous situations are some of the same skills and techniques that make for good juvenile probation practice: the ability to listen, to observe, and to communicate.25

Recognizing a sign of danger before a crisis develops may require close observation and insight into the client or other potential assailant. A physical attack seldom comes out of nowhere. More often it is preceded by several identifiable stages of escalation, each marked by verbal and nonverbal cues: (1) a passive/aggressive stage, often signaled by silence, lack of eye contact, etc.; (2) a refusal stage, marked by overt resistance and challenges to authority; (3) a “bluff sign” stage, in which overt threats may be accompanied by distancing gestures, such as armwaving or backing away; and (4) a “danger sign” stage, which may be marked by nothing more than body language, such as set lips, a fighting stance, or a fixed stare at a part of the prospective victim’s body. A probation officer who observes and takes note of these succeeding stages may have a chance to avoid a physical confrontation (by withdrawing or taking steps to distract or calm the would-be attacker, for example), or at least to prepare for one (by removing dangerous objects from the immediate area, identifying escape routes, calling in back-up, etc.).

Managing a crisis once it has reached the confrontation stage may also call for interpersonal communication skills as well as physical tricks. In addition to maintaining at least six feet of separation, angling the body with the strong side away from the potential attacker, taking a position above, to the side, or behind him if possible, and keeping in motion so as to avoid presenting a stationary target, a probation officer in peril can often use verbal techniques to regain control of the situation: communicating calmly without shouting, asking simple, concrete, nonjudgmental “what” and “how” questions about the problem (but avoiding difficult “why” questions), and in appropriate cases using humor and distraction to defuse the tension.
Beyond just staying alive, how do you really survive and prosper through—a life-long career in juvenile probation? After nearly four decades as a juvenile probation officer, Dave Steenson of the Hennepin County Department of Community Corrections in Minneapolis, MN offers the following ten tips:

  • “Have fun—maintain a life balance.” A probation officer’s long-term health—and usefulness—depend on keeping body, mind, and spirit refreshed.
  • “Keep an open mind.” Recognize and acknowledge other perspectives than your own.
  • “Focus on the fundamentals.” Keep “bread and butter” skills—communication, writing, assessment, supervision—sharp.
  • “Be smart, be safe.” Use common sense and communication to avoid the misunderstandings that lead to conflict.
  • “Know your role.” Help clients understand what your job is (and is not) from the beginning of your relationship, to avoid being “all things to all people.”
  • “Attend to best knowledge.” Stay curious about ongoing research on what works in juvenile probation, and be willing to change your approach to reflect what you learn.
  • “Acknowledge your mistakes.” If to nobody else, to yourself.
  • “Celebrate your success.” The feeling of accomplishment should be shared with others, too.
  • “Demonstrate personal responsibility.” Put ethical questions to the “mirror test.”
  • “Take care of yourself.” Make time for activities that matter to you.

Source: Steenson, D. (2001). Strategies for Probation Oficer Survival…That Lead to Success. (Unpublished paper.)
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1Butts, J., and Snyder, H. (September 1992). Restitution and Juvenile Recidivism. Washington, DC: Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention.
2 Schneider, P., and Finkelstein, M., eds. (1996). RESTTA National directory, Washington, DC: Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention. Available online:
3 Rubin, T. (January 1997). “Juvenile Restitution: An Assessment Guide.” Juvenile Justice Update 2(6).
4 Ibid.
5 See Tate v. Short, 401 U.S. 395, 91 S.Ct.668, 28 L. Ed. 29 130 (1971).
6 Herman, S. (2000). Seeking Parallel Justice: A New Agenda for the Victims Movement. Washington, DC: The National Center for Victims of Crime.
7 Zehr, H. (2001). Transcending: Reflections of Crime Victims. Intercourse, PA: Good Books.
8 American Probation and Parole Association. (1999). Promising Victim-related Practices and Strategies in Probation and Parole. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Justice, office for Victims of Crime.
9 Zehr. Supra, n. 6.
10Pennslyvania Commission on Crime and Delinquency. (Updated). Best Practice Guidelines for Victim Impact Panels within Pennsylvania’s Juvenile Justice System. Harrisburg, PA: Pennsylvania Commission on Crime and Delinquency.
11 Ibid.
12 Maloney, D., Romig, D., and Armstrong, T. (1989). Juvenile Probation: The Balanced Approach. Reno, NV: National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges.
13 Bazemone, G., and Umbreit, M. (1998). Guide for Implementing the Balanced and Restorative Justice Model. Washington, DC: Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention.
14 Developmental Research and Programs, Inc. (1993). Risk- Focused Prevention using the Social Development Strategy. Seattle, WA: Developmental Research and Programs, Inc.
15 Ibid.
16 Bazemone, G., and Cruise, P. (1995). “Reinventing Rehabilitation: Exploring a Competency Development Model for Juvenile Justice Intervention.” Perspectives, 19 (4). Lexington, KY: American Probation and Parole Association.
17 Pennsylvania Juvenile Court Judges’ Commission. (1997). Balanced and Restorative Justice in Pennsylvania: A New Mission and Changing Roles Within the Juvenile Justice System.
Available online:
18 All material on strength-based practice is synthesized from Clark, M. (Winter 1999). “Strength-Based Practice: The ABCs of Increasing Motivation With Juvenile Offenders.” Juvenile and Family Court Journal. Reno, NV: National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges. Clark, M. (November 8, 2001). Strength-based Practice for Juvenile Services: Raising Motivation and Inducing Behavior Change (Presentation at the 7th Joint Conference on juvenile Services, Pittsburgh, PA).
19 Romig, D., and Lick, N. (1986). Necessary elements for JIPS Programming. Minneapolis, MN: Symposium on Juvenile Intensive Probation Supervision.
20 Armstrong, T. (1988). “National Survey of Juvenile Intensive Probation Supervision, Parts I and II.” Criminal Justice Abstracts 20 (2 and 3).
21 Krisberg, B., Neuenfeldt, D., Wiebush, R., and Rodriquez, O. (October 1994). Juvenile Intensive Supervision: Planning Guide. Washington, DC: Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention
22 Peters, M. (1988). Juvenile Probation Officer Needs Assessment Survey. Pittsburg, PA: National Center for Juvenile Justice.
23 Puzzanchera, C., Stahl, A., Finnegan, T., Snyder, H., Poole, R., and Tierney, N. (May 200). Juvenile Court Statistics 1997. Washington, DC: Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention.
24 American Probation and Parole Association. (1993). Position Statement: Staff Safety Standards. Available online at
25 Material for this section taken from Steenson, D., and Thomas, D. (January 1993). “using Interpersonal Communications Skills to Promote Probation Officer Safety.” Juvenile Probation Tricks of the Trade. Pittsburg, PA: National Center for Juvenile Justice.
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In this chapter , the following topics will be
  • juvenile populations with distinctive needs or problems
  • ways to help these groups succeed on probation
  • sources of further information and assistance

Juvenile probation officers need to be aware of the distinctive problems and needs of certain special populations of juveniles.

The purpose of this chapter is to familiarize juvenile probation officers with the basic facts regarding the more common “special populations” they may encounter in their caseloads—including their prevalence nationally, special issues they raise for juvenile probation offices, techniques that have been found effective in dealing with them, and good sources of further information. Groups treated here include:

A.      Alcohol and drug-involved juveniles

B.      Mentally ill juveniles

C.      Minorities

D.      Gang members

E.      Females

F.      Very young offenders

G.      Multi-Needs children

H.      Juvenile criminal sex offenders

I.      Learning-disabled juveniles

J.      Juvenile arsonists

K.      Serious juvenile offenders

L.      Firearms offenders

Alcohol & Drug-Involved Juveniles

Substance abuse is a common problem among juveniles. The Alabama Court Referral Program began in 1973 when the Administrative Office of Courts (AOC) became responsible for Driving While Intoxicated (DWI) Schools in Alabama. For several years, the DWI schools were the only substance abuse programs available to courts for referral of defendants charged with driving under the influence of alcohol or other drugs.

These (DUI) schools were composed of four two-hour classes, which were designed to accommodate up to 35

defendants. Judges often reduced DUI to offenses, which did not mandate driver’s license suspensions as incentives to defendants who agreed to attend these schools.

In the mid 1980's, a subcommittee of the Judicial Study Commission recommended the development of the Court Referral Officer (CRO) Program. The subcommittee saw the need to have substance abuse professionals working within the courts. Clearly, assessing fines and incarcerating substance-abusing offenders was not the answer to the substance abuse problem. It was obvious that a new approach had to occur which would include treating offenders with alcohol and drug abuse related problems. Overwhelmingly, the CRO Program has grown to 103 certified CROs and 36 Monitoring Specialists.

Since statistics were collected in 1990, there have been 447,829 evaluations performed and 834,987 monitoring sessions conducted.

Education Programs that are certified by the AOC:

  • LEVEL I is a 12 hour didactic educational course primarily for first-time offenders or defendants who have been evaluated as non-problem users. Information covered in this course includes the law as it applies to alcohol and other drug offenses, information concerning addiction, information regarding signs and symptoms, and where further assistance may be obtained. The fee for this course is $115.00.

  • LEVEL II is a 28-hour advanced interactive curriculum, which focuses on topics such as denial, HIV/AIDS, decision-making, alternatives to alcohol and other drug abuse offenses, recovery and relapse, and the information covered in Level I.. Level II participants must attend 4 self-help meetings. The fee for this course is $250.00.

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Youth and Juvenile Program

The Youth and Juvenile Program was implemented on January 1, 1999. This 12-hour education program is mandatory for those juveniles under age 18 years and optional for those offenders under age 21 years. The fee for this course is $115.00.

The Mandatory Treatment Act specifically authorizes CROs to evaluate and refer juveniles arrested for offenses involving alcohol or drugs. Juveniles can be drug screened by CROs or Monitoring Specialists. The juvenile probation officers should contact CROs prior to any drug screen to be sure proper collection will be administered. All CROs that are certified attend and are certified to administer drug/alcohol screens. Fees are based on the program policy and procedures. A Drug Screening Issues Laboratory test has more cost than an instant test but the accuracy is much greater. It also gives the ability to determine the amount of drug present. A chemistryimmuno analyzer, using the Enzyme Multiplied Immunoassay Technique, or EMIT, methodology is considered the gold standard for drug testing. Confirmation test should be performed by a SAMHSA (Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration ) certified lab using Gas chromatography-mass spectrometry (GC-MS) , and is extremely precise but also fairly expensive to run. GCMS is not disputable. This method has been upheld in the United States Supreme Court, as flawless. All Court Referral Officers are certified to conduct field and lavatory drug screening methods. JPOs should speak with CROs to determine their needs for drug screening of juveniles.

Juveniles With Mental Health Problems

Any indication of mental health problems should be taken into account in predisposition reporting and case planning. If the disorders uncovered appear to be sufficiently serious, juveniles should be referred to mental health liaisons or community-based providers if at all possible. If any information emerges suggesting that juveniles may be at risk for suicide, detention workers and other professional staff should be alerted so that they can take appropriate precautions.

Petitions may be filed directly with the clerks of juvenile courts pursuant to Section 12-15-90, Ala. Code 1975, for involuntary mental commitments of minors/juveniles.


Juvenile probation officers have a role concerning the problem of minority overrepresentation.
Juvenile probation offices are good places to begin addressing the problem of minority overrepresentation. Juvenile probation officers necessarily operate with a great deal of autonomy and discretion in a sphere that is largely outside of public scrutiny. Not only do they make crucial intake screening and detention decisions on their own, they conduct investigations and prepare predisposition reports that may decisively influence the views of other actors in the system as well. For these juveniles, fair treatment may mean the difference between successful rehabilitation and failure-perhaps between freedom and confinement.

  • Scrutinizing the intake process.One approach to reducing personal bias in intake decision-making involves imposing more structure on the process: adopting objective screening instruments or guidelines that impose real restraints on decision-makers; requiring that the reasons for screening decisions be articulated, documented, and defended; distributing decision-making responsibility among various members of multidisciplinary teams; and periodically auditing and reviewing screening performance.1

  • Detention decision-making.The basic steps that should be taken to root out possible discrimination in detention decision-making are similar to those employed at the intake stage. First, the process should be “tightened up”, if necessary: in most cases, documented, closely guided, and reviewable decisions should be less prone to personal bias. Second, if there are particular decision-making factors or considerations that seem to be “steering” minorities into detention, they should be scrutinized more closely for fairness. Third, juvenile probation officers should look for ways to develop safe, effective alternatives to detention as court-ordered. Consider experimenting with house arrest, short-term foster care, and intensive preadjudication monitoring, should take the lead in educating the general public about the advantages of these innovations.2

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  • Diversion alternatives development. Even the most rigidly impartial screening process will fail minority juveniles if effective alternatives to formal processing are unavailable, inadequate, or too remote to be of any use. If the goal is fundamental fairness to minorities, diversion programs that work for them may be even more essential than simply filtering out biases against them. Recently, a number of jurisdictions have begun experimenting with juvenile service bureaus, community intake centers, and community arbitration and mediation programs, among others, with the object of turning more minority juveniles around before they enter the formal court system. 3 Juvenile probation offices can take the lead in developing and supporting such programs, familiarizing the courts with them, and convincing the public of their usefulness.

  • Diversity recruitment. If the overall racial, ethnic, or language profile of juvenile probation staff differs markedly from that of the surrounding communities’ —or, perhaps more importantly, from that of petition caseloads—these are problems in themselves, even apart from actual handling of minority cases. It is not that differences like these make understanding and productive dialogue impossible. Even the most fair-minded “outsiders” will be somewhat hampered in the practice of juvenile probation by outsider status.4 When gross and obvious disparities contribute to the perception that juvenile probation officers are comprised of outsiders, community trust and cooperation may be diminished. Juvenile probation officers should aggressively recruit and retain minority staff whenever possible.

  • Cultural competence training. No matter how “representative” juvenile probation officers become, they can never avoid the necessity of working with and understanding people of radically different backgrounds. That is where cultural competency training comes in. This can be formal in-service training, furnished by outside consultants. If juvenile probation offices have any cultural diversity at all, cultural cross training—especially if it is a sustained, serious, formal effort with highlevel office participation and support—is a good way of shaking loose and spreading around the collective cultural knowledge juvenile probation officers already have as an office.

  • Partnerships with minority communities.
    Minority communities have to be enlisted in the work of reclaiming young minority juveniles, too. Juvenile probation officers’ work with minorities has to include efforts to secure the trust, understanding, and active cooperation of the adult leaders and institutions that keep minority neighborhoods going. This means volunteering, attending meetings, serving on advisory boards, writing for community newspapers, supporting local businesses, and boosting local successes. It means making speeches and presentations explaining what juvenile probation officers do—how and why their work matters to the community—and suggesting concrete ways that others can help.

  • Recruitment of minority providers.Often the best way to ensure fair treatment for the neighborhoods’ kids is to keep them in the neighborhoods, where people know them and have reason to care about their future. However, there may be too little in the way of a local minority-run service provider networks to allow for that option. Juvenile probation officers’ response should be to search out and actively recruit likely local provider candidates, working with them and offering them the technical assistance and support they need to succeed.

  • Helping providers succeed with minorities.If minorities in particular placements are “failing to adjust” at disproportionately high rates, juvenile probation officers should consider the possibility that the program is the problem, and not the juveniles sent to it. In some such cases, it may be enough of a response to offer program enhancements, training, or technical assistance to help providers meet the special needs of minorities. In others, it may be necessary to admit that the approach just isn’t working—that it is time to try something different.

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Juvenile probation officers can take action to guard against bias as well.
As the foregoing discussion makes clear, ensuring the fair treatment of minorities will take planning, resources, and system-level commitment. However, that doesn’t mean there is nothing that juvenile probation officers can do:

  • Juvenile probation officer should bear in mind that real fairness to minority juveniles may require something more than mere routine, by the book impartiality. It may require them to change the way they do their jobs—to dig harder in investigations, to put extra effort into making community contacts, to use more imagination and take more chances in their search for solutions.

  • Respectful curiosity about other cultures has a way of making barriers disappear. Inquiries and research should be done. “Cultural cross-training,” even if it is just a matter of buying lunch for colleagues whose racial or ethnic backgrounds are different, should be used. Trading stories about where juveniles come from and why they think and act the way they do.

Juveniles In Need of Sign Language Interpreters
Section 12-1-23: Reasonable accommodation for those in need of special services, etc.

(a) If any plaintiff, defendant, or witness in any proceeding before the district court, circuit court, appellate court, or grand jury is in need of special services or equipment as required by the Americans with Disabilities Act [P.L. 101-366], the court shall make every effort to make reasonable accommodation for the services or equipment to allow the person to fully participate in the proceedings. All costs for the services or equipment shall be approved in advance by the court.

(b) The costs incurred by the district, circuit, or appellate court providing special services or equipment, when approved by the court in advance, shall be forwarded by the clerk of the court to the state Comptroller to be paid out of funds within the State General Fund known as "court assessed costs not provided for. " Nothing in this section shall prohibit the court from taxing the costs against one or more of the parties for immediate payment or from requiring reimbursement to the state at a later date, if not otherwise prohibited by law. (See Appendix for Order)

Juveniles In Need of Foreign Language Interpreters
When dealing with non-English speaking juveniles, it is essential that qualified interpreters be provided to ensure that information is communicated to all parties effectively. These individuals are often a part of the minority communities and can offer valuable information pertinent to dealing with the juveniles. Judges have the options of passing these costs on to defendants for reimbursement to the courts.

Section 15-1-3 provides that Alabama courts must appoint a foreign language interpreter in any criminal or juvenile proceedings as follows:
  • When parties or witnesses do not speak or understand the English language, parties or witnesses are to inform the courts of their need for interpreters;

  • Upon considering these requests, and upon determining that “due process” requires the appointment of interpreters, courts shall appoint qualified persons to interpret the proceedings;

  • Upon appointment, interpreters shall swear under oath that they will render true and clear interpretations to the best of their skill and judgment;

  • The relationship between interpreters and requesting parties are treated confidential and on the same basis as that of attorneys and clients;

  • If interpreters are appointed by district, circuit or appellate courts, the fees shall be paid by the State Comptroller pursuant to the information submitted on Form FIS-1 (see appendix for Form)

Rule 604 of the Alabama Rules of Evidence
(“Interpreters’) states that interpreters are subject to the rules relating to “expert” qualifications (See Rule 702 regarding knowledge, skill, experience, training or education), and must take an oath or affirmation to make a true translation.

Rule 43(f) of the Alabama Rules of Civil Procedure addresses the appointment and compensation of interpreters in civil proceedings.

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Juvenile Gang Members

Juvenile probation offices should be part of comprehensive community responses to juvenile gangs.
Today’s gangs vary widely in terms of racial and ethnic compositions, geographical locations, and criminal activities.5 For purposes of the National Youth Gang Survey, a gang can be any “group of youths or young adults in your jurisdiction that you or other responsible persons in your agency or community are willing to identify or classify as a ‘gang.’” 6 However, most juvenile gang definitions share a handful of common elements: a self-formed, recurrently interacting group; a common involvement in crime; communication through symbols; and control of a particular territory or enterprise.7

Although no single approach has yet emerged as the most effective way to combat juvenile gangs, the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention’s (OJJDP) Comprehensive Gang Model includes five basic gang prevention, intervention, and suppression strategies: “(1) mobilizing community leaders and residents to plan, strengthen, or create new opportunities or linkages to existing organizations for gang-involved and at-risk juvenile; (2) using outreach workers to engage ganginvolved juveniles; (3) providing and facilitating access to academic, economic, and social opportunities; (4) conducting gang suppression activities and holding ganginvolved juveniles accountable; and (5) facilitating organizational change and development to help community agencies better address gang problems through a team ‘problem-solving’ approach that is consistent with the philosophy of community oriented policing.”8

Juvenile probation officers are in positions to make important contributions to community anti-gang efforts, particularly in their approaches to the identification, control, and supervision of gang-affiliated juveniles: 9

  • Intake.   Suspected gang affiliations should be taken into account in initial risk/needs assessments. First and second-time juveniles with gang ties should be targeted for intervention services.

  • Predisposition reporting.  In order to arrive at appropriate dispositions, courts should be given complete and accurate information regarding adjudicated juveniles’ gang backgrounds.

  • Case plans.  Proposed supervision plans for gang members should contain special conditions, such as: (1) prohibitions against wearing gang colors or associating with other gang members; (2) participation in gang awareness or behavioral modification programs; and (3) curfews and area restrictions where appropriate.

  • Monitoring.  Many juvenile probation offices target gang members and other high-risk juveniles for intensive surveillance and monitoring of probation conditions, using police-probation teams.


Juvenile probation officers are seeing more girls— with more serious problems—in their caseloads.
FBI arrest data indicate that the proportion of girls arrested for all sorts of crimes has been climbing steadily since the 1980’s—reaching 27% of all juvenile arrests in 1999.10 The girls’ share increased for violent and nonviolent offenses, for crimes against persons and property crimes. Data for the years from 1990 to 1999 show marked increases in arrests of females for several offenses—aggravated assault, larceny-theft, vandalism, and weapons violations—for which arrests of males declined, in some cases sharply, over the same period. In other offense categories in which male arrests rose somewhat— simple assault, drug abuse, and liquor law violations, for instance—female arrests rose much more.

– Girls present a unique challenge to the juvenile justice system because the nature and causes of their delinquency are often distinctively different. Girls’ offending appears to be closely linked to their own victimization.

It is believed that, in most cases, female offending may be the result of:

  • Emotional, physical, or sexual abuse

  • Unstable home environment

  • Serious physical health problems

  • Psychological problems

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In fact, some researchers now suspect that there is a link between delinquency among girls and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)—a lasting psychiatric disorder that sometimes follows life-threatening events. 11 Certainly physical victimization of the kind that often produces PTSD may be one kind of pathway into delinquency, regardless of gender. However, girls are thought to be more susceptible to PTSD than males, and they are considerably more likely to suffer certain kinds of trauma: about 86% of juvenile sexual assault victims are female, for example.12 PTSD is in turn associated with impulse control problems and various kinds of selfdestructive behavior—substance abuse, school failure, etc, —that may make court-involvement more likely.13

Juvenile probation offices’ approach to case planning for girls should reflect, if applicable, the higher likelihood of past victimization, mental health problems, substance abuse, and family conflict.

Unfortunately, specific programming and services for girls are in short supply in most jurisdictions. Where they exist, successful programs for female juveniles are rooted in the experience of girls and incorporate an understanding of female development, including differences in the ways girls address and cope with their peers, families, and communities. (See “What Makes a Good Program for Girls?”)

All of these issues should be taken into consideration when dealing with female juveniles who are placed on probation. Females have vastly different needs when considering case planning and treatment. They will also have different reasoning and justification for the offenses themselves and any violations that may occur. They will handle rules and consequences in different manners than males. They may be more manipulative. Programs designed to treat these issues must address trust in relationships and provide mentoring and education to have successful outcomes. Some appropriate local resources to consider for the female population would be mental health, drug and alcohol programs, short-term behavior modification programs, group education and counseling, and group home or residential placements.

What Makes A Good Program for Girls?

One foundation devoted to promoting effective gender-specific programming for delinquent girls cites the following among the essential program elements:

  • Safe space removed from the demands of boys

  • Time to talk

  • Opportunities to develop trusting relationships

  • Emphasis on cultural strengths

  • Mentors to share experience

  • Education about women’s health issues

  • Consultation with girls on program design, implementation and evaluation.

Source: Valentine Foundation & Women’s Way. (1990). A Conversation About Girls. Bryn Mawr, PA: Valentine Foundation.

Very Young Juvenile Offenders

Delinquency by very young juvenile offenders is becoming increasingly common in recent years.

Certain behaviors during a children’s pre-school years may be predictors of later delinquent activity.
Although aggressive or attention-seeking behaviors are common in preschool-aged children, there are instances when such behaviors may signal the possibility of later delinquency. Disruptive behavior that occurs more often or that is more severe than that of same-age peers is one warning sign, along with temper tantrums or aggression lasting into the elementary school years.14 Other ‘red flags’ for future anti-social behavior may include the following:

– Physical fighting;
– Cruelty to animals;
– Frequent lying, theft, or fire-setting;
– Inability to get along with others;
– Poor academic achievement, including low motivation during    elementary school;
– Substance use;

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Repeated victimization, such as physical abuse, neglect, or bullying by peers;

Parents’ criminality or parental attitudes that are favorable to violence;

Parenting problems, such as lack of clear expectations for children’s behavior, poor supervision, and severe or inconsistent discipline;

Lack of parental involvement in children’s’ lives;

Parent-child separation before age 10 or being in single-parent families;

Having siblings who are delinquent;

Being victims of crimes; or – Hyperactivity or attention deficits.15

Options for addressing the problem of very young juvenile offenders vary.
A number of jurisdictions have experimented with special programs for very young juvenile offenders. Some of the more promising approaches include the following:

Juvenile Conference Committees (JCC)are comprised of volunteers from communities who are screened and trained by court staff and appointed by juvenile court judges to informally hear juvenile petitions that are referred by the courts. The JCCs are primarily concerned with preventing future misconduct of young people and is specifically designed for first-time offenders of nonviolent crimes. The panel members engage in a dialogue with juvenile offenders in order to assess the specific cases. JCC panel members recommend creative assortments of resolutions for the offenses in question. These resolutions can be, but are not limited to, counseling, restitution, community work programs, letters of apology, or any other conditions that will aid children in becoming responsible adults. [See Rule 42, ARJA, and Rule 15.1, ARJP.]

Multi- Needs Children (MNC) and Children’s Services Facilitation Teams
Multi-needs children present opportunities for community child – serving agencies to provide wrap- around services for the children and their families aimed at preventing the separation effects of commitment to state custody. The plans developed for these children should not be viewed as a question of which agency is responsible for the case but rather which part of the plans each agency can supply to the family unit and child. Though some reliance on state agencies may be needed to complete the plans, it should always be treated as local plans.

(Multi-Needs Teams) are also good resources for the very young juveniles. If these children are referred to courts, there are usually a number of agencies involved and interacting to benefit children. Multi-needs children are those who require the services of two or more of the following agencies and are also at imminent risk of out of home placements: Department of Youth Services, Department of Human Resources, Department of Mental Health and Mental Retardation, the Public School System or the Department of Public Health. (See generally 12-15- 71(h), Ala. Code 1975).

  • Restorative Justice Conferencesbring together the juveniles, victims, supporters of each, and trained facilitators to discuss the offenses, their impact on victims, and how reparations can be made to victims and/or the communities. These conferences address the emotional needs and losses of victims, hold juveniles accountable for their actions, teach juveniles how their actions negatively affect others, and provide supportive environments for juveniles and victims. They may be especially appropriate where very young, first-time juveniles are involved, as a way to keep them from becoming more deeply involved in delinquency. One evaluation of a restorative justice conferencing program targeting very young juveniles found a 40% reduction in the six-month re-arrest rates for conference participants, as well as victim satisfaction of over 90%.16 Other research on the effects of restorative justice conferencing, though limited, has found similarly positive effects, including reductions in reoffending for personal offenses17 and positive changes in juveniles’ attitudes.18

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  • Targeted Early Intervention (TEI) involves intensive, long-term involvement with higher-risk juveniles through diversion from the formal court process. It addresses multiple factors that can affect juveniles’ risks for future delinquency. The precipitating factors are used to craft Individual Success Plans that address intended long-term outcomes for juveniles while in the programs. The outcomes that are targeted include reduction in delinquent behaviors, reduction in exposure to violence or neglect at home, success in schools and competency in social situations. Community-based agencies work intensively with these juveniles to help them achieve the specified outcomes. TEI also provides for the coordination of the multiple agencies that may be involved in the delivery of services. Special consideration is given to the provision of support and services to the parents as well as to the juveniles in the programs. An evaluation found that after 18 months of involvement in the program, TEI participants have reduced delinquent activity and improved school attendance as compared to a control group of similar delinquent juveniles not enrolled in the programs. In addition, juveniles involved in TEI, along with their parents, express a high level of satisfaction with the program.19

Juvenile Criminal Sex Offenders

Sex offenses comprise a wide range of behaviors from noncontact sexual behaviors (obscene phone calls, exhibitionism, and voyeurism) to varying degrees of direct contact and sexual aggression (e.g., “frottage” or brushing against people, fondling, rape, sodomy). Sex offenses are also characterized according to whether they involve: (1) consent issues (e.g., not knowing what is proposed or the consequences of choosing to participate); (2) a lack of equality (e.g., obvious differences in age, size, intellect, power or authority); or (3) coercion (e.g., manipulation, trickery, threats, force or violence).20 It is the abuse of power combined with a sexual behavior that constitutes sexual abuse.21

Juvenile criminal sex offenders pose challenges for local juvenile courts and probation offices in terms of their assessment, supervision, and treatment. Many of these challenges were reflected in the concerns expressed at a Focus Group meeting* convened by the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention in 2000:

Changing views on the seriousness of juvenile sexual offending.A majority of adult criminal sex offenders began their sexually abusive behavior in their youth and, for the most part, current standards of clinical practice presume that adult offenders cannot be rehabilitated and must be monitored for life. In the not so distant past, nearly all sex offending by young people was dismissed as youthful experimentation based on a “boys will be boys” attitude. Now, however, treatment practitioners fear that every juvenile criminal sex offender is considered a violent sexual predator.

New knowledge about the impact of childhood sexual victimization. From 40 to 80% of juvenile sex criminal offenders report a history of sexual abuse, and the younger the age of sexual victimization, the greater the chance of engaging in sexually inappropriate behavior.22 Recognition of this link has contributed to hopes that effective prevention and early intervention and treatment can end the cycle of victimization and perpetration.23

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  • Growing public concern about the dangers of sexual victimization and juvenile offending.
    Public concern over violence against women and the victims’ rights movements have educated citizens and increased support for new laws such as the federal Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) and Megan’s Law. (See “Sex Offender Registries and Notification.”) These legal initiatives, combined with the political movement to hold juveniles accountable, have reduced the ages at which juveniles can be tried as adults, toughened sanctions, and made juveniles convicted of sex offenses liable for sex offender registration and public notification. There is a dynamic tension between the juvenile justice and treatment communities over whether the safety of the community should prevail over the rehabilitation needs of offenders.

  • Fears that perhaps treatment programs have gone too far.Since the early 1980s, programs designed for juvenile criminal sex offenders have grown significantly. However, many of these programs simply apply knowledge and interventions designed for adult offenders without considering developmental issues and needs unique to juveniles.24 Treatment experts now question whether the expansion of programs that focus almost exclusively on sexual offending and deviance to the exclusion of other needs is consistent with recent advances in knowledge about juvenile sex offending and treatment. In 1999, the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry developed a set of practice parameters for the assessment and treatment of sexually abusive youth that found that adolescent offenders are more amenable to treatment than adult criminal sex offenders, and that a significant percentage of juvenile sexual abusers will respond to therapeutic intervention.25

Assessments must distinguish between calculated and repetitive offending and youthful exploration or indiscretion.
Juvenile criminal sex offenders are not all alike. They differ according to victim and offense characteristics and a wide range of other variables, including histories of child maltreatment, sexual knowledge and experiences, academic and cognitive functioning, and mental health issues.26 Individualized assessments are essential for sorting out the motivations behind the offenses, the dynamics of victim selection, and level of deviance.

Juvenile Criminal Sex Offender Research Findings
  • Adult criminal sex offenders are different from juvenile criminal sex offenders: adult offending focuses on deviancy and rape, while juvenile sex offending spans a much broader spectrum.

  • There are two groups of juvenile sex offenders: those who target same-age peers and adults and those who target younger children or children under the age of 5.

  • Juvenile criminal sex offenders are more responsive to treatment than adults, have a relatively low recidivism rate (ranging from 2% to 19%), and when they do reoffend, it is more likely to be for non-sex offenses.

  • Typically, sexually abusive youth are 13 to 17 years old, have multiple diagnoses (poor impulse control and judgment, a psychiatric disorder, learning disabilities and problems in school), and were sexually or physically abused.

  • Less than 10% of juvenile criminal sex offenders are female and about 15% are under the age of 12.

  • About 40% of the victims are relatives of offenders.

Sources: Barbaree, H., Hudson, S., and Seto, M. (1993). “Sexual Assault in Society: The Role of the Juvenile Offender,” in Barbarree, H., Marshall, W., and Hudson, S. (Eds.) The Juvenile Sex Ofender. New York: The Guilford Press. Alexander, M. (1999). “Sexual Offender Treatment Efficacy Revisited.” Sexual Abuse: A Journal of Resaerch and Treatment 11:101-116. Worley, J., and Curwen, T. (2000). “Adolescent Sexual Offender Recidivism: Success of Specialized Treatment and Implications for Risk Prediction.” Child Abuse and Neglect: The International Journal 24:965-982. National Council on Crime and Delinquency. (1996). Juvenile Sex Ofenders: Characteristics, System Response and Recidivism. Washington, DC: National Council on Crime and
Delinquency. Center for Sex Offender Management. (1999). Understanding Juvenile Sexual Offending Behavior: Emerging Research, Treatment Approaches and Management Practices. Silver Spring, MD: Center for Sex Offender Management. Snyder, H. (2000.) Juvenile Arrests 1999. Washington, DC: Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention. Ryan, G., Miyoski, T, Metzner, J., Krugman, R., and Fryer, G. (1996). “Trends in a National Sample of Sexually Abusive Youth.” Journal of the American Academy of Child Adolescent Psychiatry 35: 17-25. American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, Work Group on Quality Issues. (1999). Practice Parameters for the Assessment and Treatment of Children and Adolescents Who Are Sexually Abusive of Others: AACAP Official Action.” Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry 38 (12(Supplements)): 55S-76S.

Clinical assessments may be necessary in order to distinguish severe pathology from youthful exploration and problem sexual behavior. For example, it may be difficult for juvenile probation officers to determine

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whether the offending is a reflection of sexual preference, e.g., that of a pedophile; part of a syndrome of problem behavior; a reaction to sexual victimization; evidence of a severe pathology; inadequacy in peer relations; or experimentation. There is no standard typology of juvenile sex offending that would help juvenile probation officers to differentiate offenders according to their various behavior patterns, cognitive and emotional functioning, or other relevant factors.

Juvenile probation officers should review victim impact statements and prior juvenile court records and request any mental health reports and school records as part of their assessments. In interviews with juveniles and their families the juvenile probation officers should gather information about the parentchild relationship, any history of assaultive behaviors, behavioral warning signs or other identifiable triggers, juvenile’ ‘willingness to accept responsibility for the harms inflicted, and the parents’ responses to the offenses.

In making intake decisions and disposition recommendations for juvenile criminal sex offenders, juvenile probation officers should adhere to the principle of least restrictive environment; balance the needs of the communities, the victims, and the juveniles; and remember that public safety and rehabilitation are not mutually exclusive and that both should be pursued simultaneously.

The goals of public safety, accountability, and rehabilitation can be accomplished through specialized supervision, close monitoring, and clinical treatment.
Within the treatment profession, there is optimism regarding the prevention and treatment of juvenile criminal sex offending, in sharp contrast to current practice assumptions for adult sexual predators. However, there are serious concerns over adult sex offender treatment being applied to many juveniles who, while exhibiting inappropriate sexual behavior, do not fit the profile or serious pathology for which the treatment is designed.

Extension of adult models of treatment to juveniles may provide excessive treatment or the wrong treatment, may expose children and youth to greater sexualization than the original offenses, and may reinforce deviant identity formation rather than shaping healthy identity development.27 There is also concern that current risk assessment models greatly over predict the risk of committing another sex offense.

There is agreement that treatment programs designed to focus exclusively on sex-offending behaviors are of limited value primarily because juvenile criminal sex offenders typically present antisocial attitudes and behaviors frequently found in the general delinquent population. Instead, juvenile criminal sex offender programs should take a more holistic approach. Programs should be highly structured and treat the pathology presented by juveniles; address any co-occurring disorders, deficits in social competencies, impulse control issues, or cognitive distortions; stress acceptance of responsibility and empathy training; educate about human sexuality and relapse prevention; and incorporate treatment for the offenders’ own victimization. Family therapy should be a key part of treatment because it is within the family context that many of the offenders’ beliefs, myths, and cognitive distortions about sexuality, aggression, and gender have evolved and been maintained.28

Juvenile probation officers should receive training in order to understand the dynamics, patterns, and cycles unique to juvenile criminal sex offenders, the signs of relapse and other contributing factors that lead them to offend, and how to monitor and develop effective case plans. Juvenile probation officers should assume case manager roles, working closely with treatment providers to ensure offenders receive the proper treatment and do not pose threats to public safety, and with others who have a vested interest in the supervision and success of the cases. Supervision plans must specify the goals and objectives, including restrictions on where offenders may go and the sanctions that will be imposed for failure to comply.

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Alabama Provisions on Juvenile Criminal Sex Offenders
In Alabama, every juvenile adjudicated delinquent for criminal sex offense shall be required to receive sex offender treatment by a licensed sex offender treatment program. In addition, he or she must submit to the probation officer or sheriff a DNA sample that shall be sent to the Department of Forensic Sciences (See §15- 20-27, Ala. Code 1975).

Each adjudicated juvenile criminal sex offender must receive treatment through a licensed sex offender treatment program. A risk assessment is necessary for appropriate treatment by the licensed sex offender treatment provider. The assessment must also take into account the restrictions placed on the juvenile by the juvenile court. (See appendix for Sex Offender Checklist)

If a juvenile criminal sex offender is scheduled for release by a treatment provider, the provider shall provide a risk assessment of the juvenile to the sentencing court and the juvenile probation officer upon receiving the assessment. The juvenile probation officer shall immediately notify the state and either the parent, guardian, or custodian of the juvenile criminal sex offender, or attorney for the juvenile criminal sex offender, of the pending release and provide them with the risk assessment §15-20-29, Ala. Code 1975.

The Code of Alabama requires the juvenile sex offender to register for ten years after release. §15-20-33, Ala. Code 1975.

The Code of Alabama specifies requirements for juvenile criminal sex offenders. Those requirements can be found in Sections 15-20-27, 15-20-29, 15-20-30, 15-20- 31, and 15-20-33, Ala. Code 1975.

Notification of Parents of Requirements to Register Juveniles Adjudicated Delinquent Under the Community Notification Act

Prior to release of a juvenile criminal sex offender, the parent, custodian, or guardian must comply with the following requirements under Alabama law:

As required under section 15-20-29, Ala. Code 1975, the parent, custodian, or guardian of the juvenile criminal sex offender must declare in writing the actual living address at which the juvenile criminal sex offender will reside upon release. If a child is released on probation, this must be done immediately, at the time of adjudication. If a child is taken into custody for treatment in a treatment program, the declaration of a living address will be done prior to release from the program. The “Criminal Sex Offender Information” form or the “Criminal Sexual Offense Address Notification” form must be used for this purpose.

If the parent, custodian, or guardian of a juvenile criminal sex offender intends to transfer the residence of the juvenile criminal sex offender, or the custody of the juvenile criminal sex offender is changed to a residence, the original parent or guardian in custody shall declare in writing the actual living address of the intended new residence for the juvenile criminal sex offender and provide this information to the sheriff for the current residence at least 14 days prior to moving to the new location. The sheriff shall transfer the information to the Department of Public Safety and the sheriff of the county to which the juvenile criminal sex offender intends to move or the chief of police. An intentional failure to provide a timely and accurate written declaration shall constitute a Class A misdemeanor.

When a juvenile criminal sex offender becomes the age of majority (19 years of age), the parent, guardian, or custodian of the juvenile criminal sex offender shall instead be subject to Section 15-20-22 or Section 15-20-23 as though he/she were an adult criminal sex offender. Community notification, however, shall be allowed, unless so ordered by the sentencing court.

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Sixty days after a juvenile criminal sex offender’s most current release and, except during ensuring periods of incarceration, thereafter on the anniversary date of a juvenile criminal sex offender’s birthday occurring more than 90 days after the release, the Department of Public Safety shall mail a non-forwardable verification form to the address of the juvenile criminal sex offender addressed to the parent, guardian, or custodian of the juvenile criminal sex offender. The sheriff, or chief of police where applicable, where the juvenile criminal sex offender resides shall be notified of the pending verification and whether the verification forms was received by the parent, guardian, or custodian of the juveniles criminal sex offender. Within 10 days of the receipt of the verification form, the parent, guardian, or custodian of the juvenile criminal sex offender, accompanied by the juvenile criminal sex offender, shall present in person the completed verification form to the sheriff, or chief of police where applicable, who shall obtain fingerprints and a photograph of the juvenile criminal sex offender. The verification form shall be signed by the parent, guardian, or custodian of the juvenile criminal sex offender and shall state that the juvenile criminal sex offender resides at that address.

A parent, guardian, or custodian of a juvenile criminal sex offender who fails to present in person a completed verification form to the sheriff, or chief of police where applicable, within 10 days, or knowingly fails to permit law enforcement personnel to obtain fingerprints or a photograph of the juvenile criminal sex offender shall have committed a Class C felony.

A juvenile criminal sex offender, whether having been incarcerated or not, who resides within this state, shall be subject to this act for a period of ten years from the last date of release. A juvenile criminal sex offender who is subsequently convicted as an adult criminal sex offender within the ten year period shall be considered solely an adult criminal sex offender.

No criminal sex offender shall be allowed to change his or her name unless the change is incident to a change in marital status of the criminal sex offender or is necessary to effect the exercise of religion of the criminal sex offender. Such a change must be reported to the sheriff of the county in which the criminal sex offender resides within 30 days of the effective date of the change. If the criminal sex offender is subject to the notification provision of this act, the reporting of a name change under this section shall invoke notification.

Juvenile probation officers can refer victims to Child Advocacy Center, Mental Health Authority, Department of Youth Services and/or private treatment providers for licensed sex offender treatment providers.

Section 15-20-28 - Juvenile criminal sex offender Risk assessment; notification.

(a) Sixty days prior to the projected release of a juvenile criminal sex offender, the treatment provider shall provide a risk assessment of the juvenile to the sentencing court and the juvenile probation officer.

(b) Upon receiving the risk assessment, the juvenile probation officer shall immediately notify the state, and either the parent, guardian, or custodian of the juvenile criminal sex offender, or attorney for the juvenile criminal sex offender, of the pending release and provide them with the risk assessment.

(c) Unless otherwise ordered by the sentencing court, the juvenile criminal sex offender shall not be subject to notification upon release.

(d) Within thirty days of receiving the risk assessment, the state may petition the court to apply notification.

(e) No juvenile criminal sex offender shall be removed from the supervision of the court until such time as the juvenile criminal sex offender has completed treatment, the treatment provider has filed a risk assessment with the court, and the state has had an opportunity to file a petition to apply notification.

(f) Upon receiving a petition to apply notification, the sentencing court shall conduct a hearing on the risk of the juvenile criminal sex offender to the community. The sentencing court may deny the petition or grant the petition based upon, but not limited to, the following factors relevant to the risk of re-offense:

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(1) Conditions of release that minimize risk of reoffense, including, but not limited to, whether the offender is under supervision of probation or parole; receiving counseling, therapy, or treatment; or residing in a home situation that provides guidance and supervision.

(2) Physical conditions that minimize risk of re-offense, including, but not limited to, advanced age or debilitating illness.

(3) Criminal history factors indicative of high risk of reoffense, including whether the offender's conduct was found to be characterized by repetitive and compulsive behavior.

(4) Other criminal history factors to be considered in determining risk, including:

a. The relationship between the offender and the victim.

b. Whether the offense involved the use of a weapon, violence, or infliction of serious bodily injury.

c. The number, date, and nature of prior offenses.

(5) Whether psychological or psychiatric profiles indicate a risk of recidivism.

(6) The offender's response to treatment.

(7) Recent behavior, including behavior while confined or while under supervision in the community as well as behavior in the community following service of sentence.

(8) Recent threats against persons or expressions of intent to commit additional crimes.

(g) If the court determines there is a need for notification, the level of notification to be applied shall be as follows:

(1) If the risk of re-offense is low, notification that the juvenile criminal sex offender will be establishing his or her residence shall be provided to the principal of the school where the juvenile criminal sex offender will attend after release. This notification shall include the offender's name, actual living address, date of birth, and a statement of the criminal sex offense for which he or she has been adjudicated delinquent, including the age and gender of the victim. This information shall be considered confidential by the school and be shared only with the teachers and staff with supervision over the juvenile criminal sex offender.

Whomever, except as specifically provided herein, directly or indirectly discloses or makes use of or knowingly permits the use of information concerning a child described in these subsections, upon conviction thereof, shall be guilty of a Class A misdemeanor within the jurisdiction of the juvenile court.

(2) If the risk of re-offense is moderate, notification that the criminal sex offender will be establishing his or her residence shall be provided to all schools and childcare facilities within three miles of the declared residence of the juvenile criminal sex offender. A community notification flyer shall be made by regular mail or hand delivered to all schools or childcare facilities as required by this subsection. A flyer shall also be on file with the sheriff in the county of residence and made available for public inspection. No other method may be used to disseminate this information.

(3) If the risk of re-offense is high, the public shall receive notification as though the juvenile criminal sex offender were an adult in accordance with Section 15-20-25.

(h) The determination of notification by the sentencing court shall not be subject to appeal.

Multisystemic Therapy

Multisystemic Therapy (MST) is an example of one type of scientifically validated effective treatment for juvenile sex offenders. MST is an intensive family-and communitybased treatment that addresses the multiple factors of serious antisocial behavior in juvenile sexual abusers. Treatment can focus on any combination of the individual, family, and extra-familial (e.g., peer, school, or neighborhood factors). Researchers compared juvenile sex offenders who received MST with juvenile criminal sex offenders who received individual therapy. Youths receiving MST had recidivism rates of 12.5% for criminal sex offenses and 25% for non-sex offenses, while those receiving individual therapy had recidivism rates of 75% for sex offenses and 50% for non-sex offenses.


Source: Center for Sex Offender Management. (1999). Understanding Juvenile Sexual Offending Behavior: Emerging Research, Treatment App roaches and Management Practices. Silver Spring, MD: Center for Sex Offender Management.
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Victim Advocacy and Treatment

Juvenile probation offices should ensure that their methods of supervising juvenile criminal sex offenders in the community do not re-traumatize victims; ignore victims’ needs; or threaten the safety of others. Victim advocates and interested victims can collaborate in sex offender management by advocating for policies that address victims’ issues; participate in community notification and prevention educations; and train, disseminate information, and network with those involved in sex offender management. Victims’ advocates can also assist victims of crimes disclosed during treatment and the offenders’ friends and families. Some treatment providers may offer victim impact programs designed to enhance the offenders’ empathy for the victims and their families.

Source: Center for Sex Offender Management. (2000). Engaging Advocates and Other Victim Service Providers in the Community Management of Sex Offenders. Silver Spring, MD: Center for Sex Offender Management.
Learning-Disabled and Failing Juveniles

Young juvenile offenders with learning disabilities and those experiencing educational failures raise difficult issues for the juvenile justice system.
Juvenile probation officers may see firsthand the role of educational failure in delinquency.

The juvenile justice system must regard education as a vital part of any rehabilitation process, or prevention effort for that matter. Juveniles should leave the system more competent in the basics of reading, writing, and math skills, along with thinking and decision-making skills. Juvenile court judges and juvenile probation officers must develop relationships and partnerships with school administrators in their communities to ensure that each student receives the appropriate educational or vocational assessment and programming. Locating juvenile probation officers in school-based offices offers promise.

A learning disability is a diagnosable disorder in one or more of the basic psychological processes involved in understanding or in using language, spoken or written, that may manifest itself in an imperfect ability to listen, think, speak, read, write, spell or do mathematical calculations. 29 Because learning disabilities are notoriously hard to diagnose, they go unrecognized, often manifesting themselves as behavior problems with students being routinely labeled as unmotivated, lazy, or stupid.30

Learning disabilities and educational failure are associated with delinquency.
Learning-disabled juveniles are more than twice as likely to drop out of school as students without disabilities.31 They are also more likely to abuse substances, get arrested, and commit violent acts.32 There is a mounting body of evidence that the prevalence of learning disabilities is greater among juveniles involved in the juvenile justice system than in the general population.

Some juveniles with learning disabilities exhibit certain deficits—lack of impulse control, poor perception of social cues, diminished ability to learn from experience—that may predispose them to delinquent behavior. They are also more likely to be apprehended by the police because they lack the skills to plan strategies, avoid detection, or interact appropriately. Juveniles experiencing educational failure lack the education and skills needed to find economically rewarding jobs and frequently turn to crime as a way of making a living.33

There are many reasons why juveniles experience educational failure.
Educational failure, whether consisting of poor school performance, truancy, suspensions, expulsions, or dropping out, can be the result of a myriad of reasons associated with environmental, cultural, or economic disadvantages. Whether or not they have learning-disabled diagnoses, it is safe to say that most juveniles referred to court, placed under supervision, or committed to institutions are experiencing some form of educational failure.

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In order to make better disposition recommendations or supervision plans, juvenile probation officers must collect educational information. Beyond the standard information from the current school— grades, attendance, and behavior—juvenile probation officers should collect information on the number of schools attended, whether educational assessments have ever been conducted, and elementary school grades and performance. If juveniles are failing educationally, juvenile probation officers should find out why. The easy answers are deteriorated schools and overburdened teachers. However, those are only partial answers. Juvenile probation officers should assess whether any of the following factors are at play:34


Physical needs not met.


Poor educational starts.


Community stresses/social issues.


Poor educational starts.


Racial/ethnic/language barriers.


Lack of adult supervision.


Lack of adult mentors and community support.


Consequences of school discipline policies/zero tolerance policies.


Impermanent home situations.


Family stresses and responsibilities.


Learning disabilities.

Federal law requires school districts to seek and evaluate juveniles who may need special education.
The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) requires school districts and other public agencies to seek out and evaluate all juveniles who may have disabilities (including emotional disturbance, speech and language impairment, and specific learning disabilities) and determine which ones should receive special education and related services. Juveniles with disabilities as defined by IDEA, including those involved with the juvenile justice system or juveniles who have been expelled or suspended, are entitled to free, appropriate public education. However, many juveniles have not received the benefits of this law. Severe behavioral problems may have masked intellectual deficits—placing learning-disabled students into classrooms for problem behavior students. Students may have gone undetected because they changed schools frequently.

School or clinical psychologists must conduct assessments to determine eligibility for special education services. In addition, tests that measure adaptive behavior or functioning can provide additional information about juveniles’ intellectual strengths and weaknesses and abilities to solve problems—shedding light on how they manage frustration, for example, how they follow directions, their persistence when faced with difficulties, their confidence in their own ability, and their ability to accurately judge their own performance.

Educational assessments will help juvenile probation officers advocate for needed services and predict how well the juveniles will manage the requirements of probation supervision or rehabilitation programs. Juvenile probation officers must provide information and recommendations that help judges to: (1) understand the impact of the juveniles’ educational failures or disabilities on their delinquent behaviors and on the prospects for satisfactorily fulfilling supervision or treatment obligations; and (2) decide what educational skills need to be addressed. Once juveniles are under probation supervision, juvenile probation officers must advocate for appropriate educational or vocational services and actively monitor the students’ progress.

Supervising learning-disabled juveniles call for patience and dedication.
There are practical methods juvenile probation officers can use when supervising learning-disabled juveniles:


Avoiding “insight-oriented” counseling, which may be too abstract.


Keeping instructions basic and simple.


Seeking frequent feedback from the juveniles on how well they have understood any directions or instructions. This needs to be an active process on the part of juvenile pro