|Field Note: The
Chief Probation and Parole Officer told me "As a society, we get
gang members in the system too late - after they're seventeen and are
defined as an adult. We need to get involved much earlier with our young
people. And I don't mean just gang members - I mean all the young
Offenders placed on probation are typically sentenced to
treatment in the community for a specific period of time while under
the supervision of a probation officer. In many cases, an equally long
prison sentence is imposed along with the sentence to probation, but it is "suspended" - held in abeyance.
If the offender serves he or her probation without violating its conditions, the suspended sentence to
incarceration is dismissed.
Offenders on parole were sentenced to prison, served a portion
of their time in the prison, and, because they behaved well while
incarcerated, were released into the community under
the supervision of a parole officer. Both probationers and parolees are
required to abide by certain conditions while in the community which, if violated, may result
in revocation (loss) of their probation/parole status. When probation or
parole are revoked, the offender is incarcerated for the remainder of their
There are both juvenile- and adult probation and parole officers. Juvenile officers perform many of
the same functions of a probation or parole officer, but their caseload is
made up exclusively of juveniles. The solutions discussed in the remainder
of this section apply to probation and parole officers as well as juvenile
officers (hereafter all are referred to as "officers").
When the court
determines that a juvenile offender may remain in the community, the most
frequently ordered disposition is probation supervision. Unfortunately,
probation becomes meaningless when juveniles are assigned to overburdened
probation officers who at best can have brief and infrequent contacts with
them in sterile office settings.
supervision that remains true to its theoretical purpose and incorporates
critical elements such as small caseloads, opportunistic supervision, and
community involvement can effectively hold youth accountable for their
et al., 1999 , page)
Due to overwhelming caseloads (in number and in the variety of
pathologies exhibited), most officers have become brokers of community services. They know what their clients need and
which services (social agencies) are available in the community to help
them. The work of the officers, then, is to match their clients to the
appropriate services in the community. Instead of offering such things as
counseling, tutoring, mentoring, or substance abuse intervention themselves,
they send clients to agencies in the community for those services.
The extent to which any of the officers can assist their clients
depends upon the intelligence,
foresight, and generosity of the community and the willingness of the
officer to avail themselves of those services. Some probation/parole
officers, faced with too many clients, sort them into categories, for lack
of a better term. I have often heard officers say "There's about a
third of my clients who can't be helped. They don't want help and it's a
waste of my time and the resources of the community to push help on them.
Then there's about a third of my clients who don't need any additional help.
They are genuinely sorry they did what they did, their parents are on their
case, and matters will improve for them without much assistance from me.
Then there's the final third - the ones who need help and are willing to be
helped. Those are the ones I focus my time and effort on."
If community leaders and
residents recognize the need for and value of community-based treatment for
offenders, and are willing to provide the resources needed, then the amount of gang activity and youth violence in the
community may be reduced through their use. If they don't have that
foresight, offenders will not be treated nor will gang activity or crime
If the resources are available, here are some of the ways in
which officers could contribute to a reduction in
gang activity and youth violence.
Click on the
topics below or
continue reading down the page ...
and Training-Related Solutions
|Creating the position of gang-dedicated
A community has a much better chance of reducing gang activity
and youth violence when it aligns gang-dedicated officers with
gang-dedicated police and prosecutors. Police gang unit members and
officers are important allies.
The knowledge each has of the gang situation should be
shared on a regular basis. Shared intelligence is then possible and,
together, a concerted effort can be focused upon gang offenders and
either treatment sought or suppressive measures used.
|Providing on-going training for
The effective treatment of gang member clientele
(wannabes, associates, and hard core) requires special knowledge, special
techniques, and an unusually close working relationship between officers,
prosecutors, judges, school officials, and community-based organizations
such as a community task force on gangs.
Training is needed on how to conduct oneself in
the presence of gang members, how to identify gang identifiers, how to
keep from exacerbating relationships between gang members and
different gangs, how to keep track of migrating and immigrating gang
members, and much more.
Training is also needed on how to establish a
working relationship with gang-specialized police and prosecutors.
Gang behavior-related laws, for example, are unique and of critical
importance to an officer and his or her gang client. Given the special
knowledge gang-specialized officers possess, they should be trained to
work with the community as educators and facilitators for bringing
about changes needed to reduce the formation of gangs.
Gang-dedicated officers should be sent to local, regional,
and national conferences, seminars, and workshops on gangs to remain
current on gang-related matters (i.e., which gangs are
starting to appear, what new kinds of crimes are being committed,
who's coming out of prison, what new techniques are police or
correctional personnel using to deal with gang members), treatment
modalities being used in other jurisdictions, etc.
|Training the entire staff:|
All officers should be
trained to recognize gang-member traits in their clients and to have
clients transferred to the gang-dedicated officer or familiar with the network of
community-based youth-serving agencies designed to deal with gang members.
|Keeping caseloads manageable:|
I almost feel silly mentioning this. Everyone in the
field of criminal justice knows how important it is to have small
caseloads. And nearly everyone knows
that most of the money spent on wrongdoers is spent on jails and
prisons. That means there are fewer dollars to hire
intervention workers (folks like juvenile- and adult probation and parole officers).
The net result is an overwhelming number of
clients per officer. Every effort should be made to keep the community and
its leaders appraised of the need to keep caseloads manageable.
|Identify violent and gang youth at the earliest age possible for
Parents, school teachers, and juvenile officers will
likely encounter a soon-to-be gang member at a very early age. That child
should become a focus of attention in order to assure that he or she
doesn't continue on the path they have chosen.
Recognized early, intervention is simpler and more effective.
|Facilitating the flow of information
between police, prosecutors, and the gang-dedicated officers:|
Justice practitioners are operating in a blind if
there is not an open, honest, and continuing flow of information between
every component of the justice system (legislators, police, courts, and
corrections). The tendency for each component to build a wall between itself and the other components
is counterproductive. The higher the wall, the more like gang activity and youth
violence will continue to increase.
Community leaders and administrators of the justice components in a community should insist on an open forum of ideas and a sharing of
intelligence about gangs. It doesn't
all have to be
made public (although the public needs to know about what's going on),
but it should certainly
be shared within the system.
|Becoming part of a team focus on
"In September 1995, three-year-old
Stephanie Kuhen was shot and killed by members of the Avenues gang
when her parents became lost while driving in a gang-controlled
neighborhood in northeast Los Angeles. Mayor Richard Riordan tasked
his Criminal Justice Planning Office (CJPO) with developing
recommendations for combating gang crime. The CJPO completed a concept
paper proposing the creation of the Los Angeles City/County Community
Law Enforcement and Recovery (CLEAR) Program. The concept paper was
submitted to the United States Department of Justice (DOJ) and
launched the President’s Anti-Gang Initiative, which provided
funding for 15 anti-gang programs nationally, including Los Angeles’
"The goal of
CLEAR Program is to reduce gang activity in Los Angeles. The
Program utilizes an operations team consisting of representatives from
the following five agencies: the Los Angeles Police
Department (LAPD), the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s
Department, the Los Angeles County Probation
Department, the Los Angeles County District
Attorney’s Office, and the Los Angeles City
Attorney’s Office. Each operations team is housed at a site
within the target area. They [handle] all gang crime within the target
area. Here's the
legislation that created the CLEAR program." (Parks
and Papke, no date,
the "Breaking Cycles" program:|
Cycles is a family-focused, delinquency prevention and intervention
system which was established in July of 1997 under the auspices of the
Juvenile Justice Commission and out of our County’s (SB1760) Local
Action Plan to reduce Juvenile Crime. The system’s intent is to:
|Prevent youth from becoming delinquent by
focusing strengths-based, family-centered community resources and
programs on “at-risk” youth and their families.|
|Improve the juvenile justice and community
intervention for juvenile offenders through a system of Graduated
Sanctions (Intervention). |
The Breaking Cycles intervention component, known
“Graduated Sanctions” is a multi-disciplinary, collaborative system
that combines community intervention with incarceration. This graduated
sanctions approach reduces the reliance on incarceration.
Family involvement and parental participation are
essential elements during the entire Breaking Cycles commitment. The
system includes substance abuse services, mental health treatment, and
educational services. Program services are responsive to gender and
cultures as well as offender accountability.
|Consider adopting Operation Night
In the early 1990's Boston (MA) was experiencing heightened
gang violence, "a rise in homicide victims under the age of 17, ... increasingly bold behavior of gang members in courthouses, and
criticism by minority community leaders and judges of police 'stop and
Probation officers worked independently of police, and curfews were not
commonly imposed by the court and were difficult to enforce. In response
to those problems, some probation officers met informally with a few
police officers to develop the
Operation Night Light
model (a promising strategy) as a more
effective way of deterring juvenile violence.
"Operation Night Light pairs one probation officer with two police
officers to make surprise visits to the homes, schools, and worksites of
high-risk youth probationers during the high crime hours of 7 p.m. to
midnight, rather than from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., which was previously
The program also gives all Boston police officers information on
who is on probation and what conditions they are required to obey,
allowing officers on patrol to act as additional eyes and ears for
probation around the clock. In doing so, officers discovered that many
offenders under supervision in the community were violating the terms of
their probation by breaking court-imposed curfews and associating with
other known offenders.
Officials in Boston found that Operation Night Light's efforts - joint
patrols, curfew checks, and information sharing - have had a significant
impact on gang members who are on probation because they have begun to
take conditions of supervision much more seriously.
a variety of specialized
probation supervision programs:|
Two examples of exemplary specialized
probation supervision programs are School-Based probation and Orange County's Early Intervention Program.
In a school-based
probation program "the juvenile probation officer works directly in
the school rather than the traditional courthouse environment. This
model allows the probation officer to contact clients more frequently,
observe client interactions with peers and behavior in a social
setting, and actively enforce conditions of probation such as school
et al., 1999, page)
In the Orange County (CA) Early
Intervention Program a Juvenile Systems Task Force "developed the 8%
Early Intervention Program to target young, high-risk juvenile
offenders and their families. This small percentage of chronic
offenders had been found to account for more than half of all juvenile
arrests in Orange County.
"The 8% Program employs experienced probation
officers, with caseloads of no more than 15 clients, to work
intensively with young offenders and their families. First, staff try
to control the offender's behavior, ensure that he or she complies
with the probation terms and conditions, and stabilize the youth's
home environment through counseling, parent aides, and respite care.
Then, the probation officer helps the youth develop the necessary
skills to avoid a life of crime and trains parents on how to supervise
and support their children." (Kurlychek,
et al., 1999, page)
|Supporting the creation of a
community reintegration aftercare program:|
"One of the most
critical moments for juveniles placed in residential facilities occurs
once they return from placement and attempt to reintegrate into their
homes and communities. Often, juveniles who benefit from a controlled,
structured environment have difficulties applying their newly acquired
skills and conflict resolution techniques to real-life situations.
Aftercare programs provide an extended period of supervision,
surveillance, and service delivery to assist youth during this
transitional period with the goal of preventing and reducing
et al., 1999, page)
|Supporting the creation of
"One aftercare program for high-risk juveniles has been
shown to produce very positive short-term effects. (Josi
and Sechrest, 1999) The Lifeskills '95
program, in San Bernardino and Riverside Counties, CA, serves youthful
offenders released from the California Youth Authority. In addition to
other impressive results, Lifeskills '95 reduced frequent gang
contact. Only 8 percent of the Lifeskills '95 youth had frequent gang
contact (versus 27 percent for the control group)." (Howell,
the development of programs for
serious, violent, and chronic juvenile offenders:|
"Serious, violent, and chronic juvenile offender programs involve the
development of a system of graduated sanctions of increasingly intensive
treatment and rehabilitation services, including immediate interventions,
intermediate sanctions, and secure confinement. Programs such as
restitution, community service, and victim mediation are to be included
among the range of sanctions adopted.
"Development of an aftercare program to assist
juveniles leaving residential facilities in their reentry to the
community also may be part of this component. The approach anticipates
that youth will be assigned to appropriate levels of intervention or
sanctions based on the use of risk and needs assessment tools developed
by the community.
"Secure confinement is expected to be reserved for the
most serious, violent, or chronic offenders. For those juveniles who are
placed in residential facilities, aftercare programs are envisioned to
facilitate positive reentry to the community.
"Several specific aspects of this graduated
sanctions model have been shown to be associated with positive outcomes.
The six most commonly cited are (1) continuous case management; (2)
emphasis on reintegration and reentry services, including reducing the
influence of negative role models and increasing prosocial bonding; (3)
opportunities for youth achievement, emphasizing improved self-image;
(4) clear and consistent consequences for offending; (5) educational and
vocational training; and (6) individual, group, and family therapy." (Morley
et al., 2000, page)
Gang members and violent youth who fail to respond positively to assistance provided by
family members, peers, the faith community, school personnel,
police, prosecutors, judges, as well as probation/parole and juvenile
officers, leave us with little else other than incarceration as a means of
addressing their misbehavior. That last resort is the topic for the next
Resources: You can read the Occupational Outlook Handbook
(U.S. Department of Labor)
job description for a parole and probation officer. The Occupational
Outlook Handbook provides information on the nature of the work,
working conditions, employment, training and other qualifications,
advancement, job outlook, earnings, related occupations and additional
information for probation
Focus on Accountability: Best Practices for
Juvenile Court and Probation is an excellent publication sponsored by the Juvenile Accountability
Inventive Block Grant Program, a division of the U. S. Department of
Justice. Some of the material above was drawn from this publication.
You can learn about the award winning
(MA) strategy for preventing youth violence.
If you'd like to learn more about
juvenile probation, you can read Juvenile Probation: The Workhorse of
the Juvenile Justice System in either ASCII
You can explore crime and
in London (England). Fact: 34% of men and 8% of women in Britain will
have a conviction for a criminal offence before the age of 40.
Michael K. Carlie
All rights reserved. No part of this book may be
reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means without permission in
writing from the author and copyright holder - Michael K. Carlie.