The function of the Juvenile Probation Department is varied and complex and can differ from county to county. I will make an effort to describe our function within county government from intake to release in the next several paragraphs:
Any juvenile who commits an act in Lawrence County that would be considered a misdemeanor or felony between the ages of 10 up to their 18th birthday, with the exception of excluded offenses, would fall in jurisdiction. The State & local police departments, District Judges or transferring agency within jurisdiction will forward an allegation of delinquency to the intake department in our office for processing. After verifying jurisdiction the Intake Supervisor will screen the allegation to determine if the case will be diverted or a juvenile petition will be filed. The basis to divert or not is based on the charges, juveniles status and the juveniles history.
If it is determined that the case meets criteria for an Informal Adjustment, the Diversion Officer will be assigned the case. They will look at an appropriate plan of supervision and treatment for the juvenile to address the specifics of their actions and develop competencies and address other factors that include victim restoration and community protection. Services will be varied based on individual need but could include participation in community service, diversion groups and outpatient counseling. The Diversion Officer will supervise this case through a 90 day period or until all agreed conditions have been met by the juvenile. Failure on the part of the juvenile to successfully complete the designated Informal Adjustment period will result in a petition being filed and further formal court action.
Once the decision is made to proceed with formal court action, a petition is filed and a hearing date is scheduled. Juveniles charged with a Felony offense will have their hearing scheduled before a Judge. All other charges will be scheduled before the Juvenile Master. A probation officer will schedule an intake date with the juvenile and his/her family. During the intake process family information is gathered and the juvenile is assessed using two actuarial tools the Youth Levels of Service/Case Management Instrument (YLS/CMI) and the Massachusetts Youth Screening Instrument version 2 (MAYSI-2). The YLS/CMI is used to determine a juveniles risk of re-offending, their strengths and possible services and in the development of the case plan. The MAYSI-2 identifies youth 12-17 year of age who may have special mental health needs. The purpose of the MAYSI-2 screening instrument is to identify youth who might have mental health or emotional conditions that require immediate attention, intervention or assessment.
There are three possible outcomes for a juvenile defendant as their case proceeds through the court. First, the case may be dismissed or withdrawn. This can occur either prior to a scheduled hearing or at the hearing. Second, the juvenile may be offered a consent decree. Once a juvenile is offered a consent decree, the case will then be assigned to a probation officer. The probation officer will review the conditions of the consent decree with the juvenile and their family. They will further discuss the YLS assessment and complete a case plan with the juvenile and their family. The case plan is an individualized plan based on the assessment of the juvenile’s needs, risk and strengths. The case plan also considers the needs of the victim and the community. The purpose of the plan is to outline a set of obligations and activities that are designed to protect the community, hold the juvenile accountable for the offense(s) committed and help the juvenile acquire skills that will assist them in becoming productive citizens. Services will be varied based on individual need but could include participation in community service, diversion groups and outpatient counseling. Further, a Consent Decree is generally reserved by standard for first time offenders. The Consent Decree period lasts for six months and can be extended for an additional six month period. Failure to successfully complete supervision under the Consent Decree will result in the original petition being reinstated and an adjudication hearing being scheduled with the courts.
The last possible outcome is an adjudication of delinquency. There are two disposition recommendations for an adjudication. The first and most utilized disposition once a juvenile is found to be delinquent is formal probation for treatment and rehabilitation. Just as stated above under a consent decree the probation officer will review the conditions of supervision (supervision plan),YLS assessment and complete a case plan with the juvenile and their family and assign any services that are needed. The average period on formal probation ranges in time from 7 to 15 months based on the juvenile’s cooperation and compliance with conditions of probation assigned to them through court order or their probation officer.
The second dispositional recommendation to an adjudication of delinquency is placement. Placement may also be requested during a review hearing for juveniles who fail to comply with their case plan and all other alternatives have been exhausted. There are also offenses that are serious and jeopardize community protection that the juvenile probation department may request placement of the juvenile following adjudication prior to the juvenile being formally supervised. The placement officer will assume the case management responsibility for that juvenile once the court commits the juvenile to a placement facility. The placement officer ensures the juveniles medical, psychological and educational needs are met over the seven to twelve months (average removal period) meeting with the child, parents/guardian and facility no less than once per month to monitor progress. The facility also prepares a monthly report to update the courts as to the progress of the juvenile while under their care. The Placement Officer will schedule a placement review hearing no later than six months from the original removal date in which the juvenile, facility and probation department can discuss progress and permanency plans for the juvenile for release. The placement officer will maintain additional case management/aftercare services for a period of 90 days following the release of the juvenile to increase the potential for success during their reintegration into their home and the community.
Once all conditions are met through Informal Adjustment, Consent Decree, Formal Probation or Placement the juvenile is recommended for release from jurisdiction. For Formal Probation/Placement a release summary is prepared by the probation officer and submitted to the courts for final approval.
Patrick J. Micco
Patrick J. Micco
Chief Juvenile Probation Officer