What is the historical development of juvenile probation, and how does it operate in today's juvenile justice system.  What are the recent innovations in juvenile probation?

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Tamara K. H. | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Educator Emeritus

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Along with the changes of the juvenile justice system, the juvenile probation system has also evolved as well. A juvenile probation system was first developed in the 1840s when a shoemaker from Boston named John Augustus decided that the way to keep minors out of the harsh prison system was for him to bail the minors out of jail and promise the court that he would keep a close eye on them. He particularly promised the court to see to the minors' education and that they would be "supplied with some honest employment" (State of Louisiana Youth Services Office of Juvenile Justice, "U.S. History: History of Juvenile Probation"). Augustus extended his bail policy to adults as well and bailed out over 1900 minors and adults before his death. By 1899, Cook County in Chicago, Illinois, developed the first juvenile court system in response to a legislature. This court was based on the principle that children should be dealt with differently from adult criminals as "children [are] in need of aid, encouragement, and guidance" ("U.S. History: History of Juvenile Probation"). It's also under this court that the first official probation system was established, also establishing the Probation and Parole Officer (PPO) ("U.S. History: History of Juvenile Probation"). Furthermore, due to these developments, the National Probation Association was created by 1907.

However, by the 1980s youth crime, especially violent crime began escalating, making society question the value of the current juvenile justice system, complete with its parole system.  It was at this point that society began wanting to see juveniles who commit serious crimes to be treated and sentenced as adults. Regardless, even by the 1990s, probation was still a vital aspect of the juvenile justice system and more than half of the minors tried in juvenile courts were sentenced with probation rather than given a prison sentence. The probation system has even shifted once again now at the start of the 21st century. Prior to the 21st century a Probation and Parole officer primarily saw a client periodically at the office. Now, however, it's believed that effective probation must have a more personal touch, and the probation system now emphasizes more face-to-face meetings in the "youth's own environment" ("U.S. History: History of Juvenile Probation"). 

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