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Different types of sentences are imposed on a juvenile after being adjudicated as an offender and juvenile probation is one such sentence. The juvenile justice system has the doctrine of sentencing a minor offender to some less restrictive but appropriate alternative. Juvenile probation allows the youth to remain in the community after found guilty of an offence. The function of this probation is to provide rehabilitation services to the offender using community based services. This paper will discuss the juvenile system and how it operates.
Probation is defined as a supervision program that was created by law and is ordered by the court in cases that involve the youth who has been guilty of an offence. Probation is allowed by the law and is done by limiting the freedom of the youth and the youth's activities are thus restricted. This is done as per the commitment to the custody of the department of Juvenile Justice. When a youth is based on probation, s/he must complete the as per the court ordered and all services completed. The youth also need to comply with all other special conditions that will be deemed appropriate by the court and all other sanctions that will relate to the offense. Examples of these are that the youth may be needed to do community service. The youth may also be compelled to pay money to the victim of the offense and ordered to submit to an evaluation and/or be needed to attend to counseling (Florida Department of Juvenile Justice).
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The court may order as a special condition of probation that the youth abide by or attend a probation day treatment program. These are programs that provide additional monitoring of the youths and offer them an alternative educational setting. Additional services at the probation day program may also include; anger management classes, substance abuse classes and social skills building classes (Florida Department of Juvenile Justice).
According to Torbet, Juvenile probation is one of the oldest and most used ways through which court ordered services are rendered. Probation is used as a juvenile system for first offenders or as an alternative to institutional confinement for some serious offences. Sometimes rarely, probation may be voluntarily where the youth agrees to comply with a period of informal probation. The youth must agree to comply and submit to probation conditions which are established by the courts (Torbet, PM., 1997).
Juvenile probation officials have varying duties but their basic probation functions includes; screening of cases referred to the juvenile courts, presentence of juveniles investigations and also supervising of the juvenile offenders. Some probation departments may provide aftercare services for the youth released from institutions and others may administer detention or manage local residential facilities (Torbet, PM., 1997).
Stages of a juvenile case
Once a minor is sent to the juvenile justice system, s/he will go through the intake process, detention, adjudication, disposition and then aftercare. The intake process is also known as prosecution and starts by the prosecutor deciding whether to file a case in the juvenile court. Factors that are looked into include; evidence of the offense, seriousness of the offense and court history of the youth. If the youth is found guilty, the court then may decide probation recommendations (Norris and Callahan).
The parent is expected that during the time his/her youth is under probation that s/he assists and encourage him/her to fulfill the sanctions of probation.
Violation of probation
During probation, the youth is placed under the careful watch of a juvenile probation officer whose work is to monitor the youth and ensure that s/he complies with the court sanctions as ordered. The probation court order also specifies that the parent or guardian "shall report violations of this order by the child to the JPO and to the court". This means that the JBO and the parent or guardian will work together and ensure that the youth follows the court order. If the youth does not follow the probation conditions or if s/he fails to complete the sanctions as per the court order, then a violation of probation will be filed. If the court finds that the probation was violated it will revoke the probation and impose such a sentence as to placement of the youth in a department of juvenile justice residential facility (Nicolet, G.).
Commitment and release
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When the youth is released from a commitment program, s/he may be supervised on post commitment probation or on conditional release. These two types of supervision are a requirement by the law for the youth to adhere to the specific conditions which are usually similar to those of probation. Conditional release supervision does not get the court involved if violations occur. The violations can be handled through an administrative hearing which is facilitated by department staff. Violations of post commitment probation are handled the same way as that of probation. Both violations will result in re-commitment to higher residential program (Nicolet, G.).
Organization of probation departments
The local juvenile courts or the state administrative office of the courts administer probation services in the US. Juvenile probation services are usually organized under the judiciary but recent legislative has in so many ways transferred the services from the local juvenile court to a state court judicial department. This transfer is of services to state judicial administration consistent with the emerging pattern of state funding courts. In the US there are approximately 18, 000 juvenile probation officials impacting on the lives of the lives of thousands of juveniles (Torbet, PM., 1997).
Ways of administering juvenile probation
The probation of minors who have pleaded to or who have been found to be guilty of an offence is done within a time frame determined by the courts. The juvenile probation officers as responsible for administering probation cases and this are usually done by several available ways that include;
I. Court orders
Juveniles sentenced to probation are instructed by the courts by special instructions. The court will give an explanation of what is required of the youth in order to complete a successful probation period. The probation officer is then required to read the court order in order to understand what the youth is required to do and on how to move forward with the case. The officer is then required to ensure that the youth and his/her parents do understand what is required of them and clarify any concerns to them. The minor is then required to complete all the probation terms by the probation determination date (Nicolet, G.).
ii. Case planning
To successively administer juvenile probation cases needs one to retrieve all available information about the minor and all that concerns the case. The information is then compiled into a case plan which is an outline for the youth to follow so that s/he successfully completes whatever the court requires of him/her. For a successful case planning, it requires obtaining information from the youth and keeping regular contact with his/her parents, counselors and school officials. In case the youth breaks probation rules, they are required to by the courts and file violations (Nicolet, G.).
iii. Completing probation terms
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The probation officers are meant to schedule regular meetings with the youth offender to ensure that they stay out of trouble and that they complete the probation terms as per court instructions. Minors who may be required to seek counseling or substance abuse treatment services should be referred by the probation officer to the local social services or hospitals for the services. Probation officers should also ensure that some minors who are required to complete community hours in church, hospital or school do so. Youths may also be needed to complete paying court costs associated with their case or pay restitution especially if found guilty of damage to property or theft. The probation officer is required to create a payment plan and as such explain to the minor when and how the fines will be paid (ehow).
iv. Follow up plan
The probation officer should be proactive when administering juvenile probation cases and should follow up with collateral contacts, and maintain an updated and organized file and ensure that the youth does abide by the court deadlines. The probation officer should also track the youth's progress regularly so that s/he will be able to know what terms the minor has or has not achieved. This is vital as it will help the officer to inform the court as to the youth's progress and can also help the youth to while undergoing the probation period (Nicolet, G.).
It is understood that some kids may try to indulge in some pranks or actions that may sound funny to them but not look at the long-term harmful consequences. Thus the juvenile system was put by the court procedure which facilitates a juvenile offender to stop criminal activities in the future. Juvenile probation was designed with these minors in mind to help rehabilitate them instead of entering the adult system (Newswatchers).
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