Probation departments, like a number of other longstanding agencies, function within a framework of statutes, policies and practices that were established over the course of many years. Typically, there has been little time or effort to reflect on that framework to determine how well it is working and whether it functions in a manner that results in the achievement of desired youth outcomes and effective system performance. Further, a culture of doing things “the way we’ve always done them” often permeates daily operations and often undermines changes that incorporate evidence-based practices and the shift to using effective programs and services.  Since 2005, the Robert F. Kennedy National Resource Center for Juvenile Justice (RFK NRC) has used a proven framework for review and analysis to partner with state and local jurisdictions to enhance probation department performance. This support has resulted in the development of several publications, tools and resources that provide guidance to jurisdictions undertaking such an assessment process.

Probation Review Guidebook
By Janet K. Wiig and John A. Tuell (Robert F. Kennedy Children’s Action Corps, 2011)

(Coming in August! Probation System Review Guidebook, 2nd edition. By Kari L. Harp and John A. Tuell, 2016)

Probation Review Implementation: How Best Practices Meet Everyday Practices
By Dr. John S. Ryals, Jr. (Robert F. Kennedy Children’s Action Corps, 2013)

Sustaining the Momentum of Probation System Reform in Jefferson Parish
Dr. John S. Ryals, Jr. (Robert F. Kennedy National Resource Center for Juvenile Justice, 2015)

Since 2005, the RFK NRC has partnered with more than a dozen jurisdictions seeking reform (see to provide technical assistance to support the successful application of its resources.  In 2016, the RFK NRC has agreements in place to launch probation system reviews in 3 more jurisdictions.  Each jurisdiction identifies the most critical issues that confront their department and is guided through steps to create a carefully tailored work plan to address them. The core elements of such a plan include administrative analysis of program goals, objectives and implementation; probation management, supervision, assignment, monitoring and behavior change practices; intra- and interagency work processes; and quality assurance for system performance and client outcomes. A probation system review is an exciting opportunity for the principals and partners involved in the management, day-to-day operations and functions of a probation department to assess how they are doing in relation to their goals and objectives and to devise practical strategies for improved performance and outcomes.

Other Resources & Tools

1. Data Planning Exercise – Introduction (click here to view)

— Data Planning – WorkGrid (Probation Only) (click here to view)
— Data Planning – WorkGrid (Probation/Reentry Continuum) (click here to view)

2. Process Mapping Exercise – Introduction (click here to view)

3. Employee Survey Exercise – Introduction (click here to view)

4. Management, Resource, and Training Exercise – Introduction (click here to view)

— Management Practices Meeting – Communications Grid (click here to view)
— Inventory of Programs and Services Exercise – WorkGrid (click here to view)
— Professional Training Inventory – WorkGrid (click here to view)