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Probation as a Court Disposition

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Probation as a Court Disposition

Q: When is probation supervision used by the court?

A: Juvenile courts assign probation supervision to a wide range of youth.

  • Probation is the oldest and most widely used community-based corrections program. Probation is used both low-risk youth for their first offense and as an alternative to institutional confinement for youth with more serious offenses.
  • During a period of probation supervision, a youth remains in the community and can continue normal activities such as school and work. However, the youth must comply with certain conditions. This compliance may be voluntary: the youth agrees to conditions in lieu of formal adjudication. Or compliance may be mandatory following adjudication: the youth is formally ordered to a term of probation and must comply with the conditions established by the court. Fifty-four percent of juvenile probation dispositions in 2021 were formal (i.e., enacted under court order following adjudication).
  • In addition to regular meetings with a probation officer, a youth may also be required to adhere to a curfew, complete a specified period of community service, or pay restitution. A probation order may also include additional requirements such as drug counseling or weekend confinement in the local detention center. Youth with more serious offenses may be placed on intensive supervision requiring more frequent contact with their probation officer and stricter conditions. The term of probation may be for a specified period or may be open-ended. Review hearings are held to monitor the youth’s progress. After conditions of probation are successfully met, the judge terminates the case. Typically, probation can be revoked if the youth violates the probation conditions. If probation is revoked, the court may reconsider its disposition and impose stricter sanctions.
  • Most juvenile court dispositions are multifaceted and involve some sort of supervised probation. In 2021, formal probation was the most severe disposition ordered in 65% of the cases in which the youth was adjudicated delinquent.

Internet citation: OJJDP Statistical Briefing Book. Online. Available: https://ojjdp.ojp.gov/statistical-briefing-book/probation/faqs/qa07101. Released on December 22, 2023.

Adapted from Sickmund, M. (2003). Juveniles in Court. Washington, D.C.: Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention.

Date Created: May 14, 2021