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By Val Mertens, Ajunct Professor, Criminal Justice Programs
Probation has been the mainstay of the justice system for many years. Used as a tool to keep some offenders from ending up in prison, probation helps keep overcrowding down while still providing a type of punishment for committing crime against the community.
According to the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, "...probation is used both for first-time, low-risk offenders and as an alternative to institutional confinement for more serious offenders." (OJJDP, 2003). This is true for both adult and juvenile offenders. The difference occurs in the services available to each class.
Adults may receive "...measured assessment, and program initiatives, which target and reduce criminogenic factors," while juveniles can receive various other services including community service, diversion programs, behavior and skills training, certain outpatient care, and various family oriented services. (Olmsted county, n.d.). In an abstract from the National Criminal Justice Reference Service, Mark Myrent states that "...juvenile courts are more likely to include community service orders and withhold specific treatment odds either until an evaluation is performed or leave it up to the discretion of the probation officer." (Myrent, 2000)
In the end, there tend to be more services available for juveniles, which in my opinion, is based on an optimistic belief that youthful offenders are more likely to respond well to these service than an adult offender.
Students preparing for a career in criminal justice can visit the National Criminal Justice Reference Center to learn more about probation in juvenile or adult justice or other topics related to criminal justice.
OJJDP Statistical Briefing Book, online, Available: http://www.ojjdp.gov/ojstatbb/probation/qa0710.asp?qaDate=20030811. Released on August 11, 2003.
Olmsted County, n.d., Adult and Juvenile Probation, retrieved from: http://co.olmsted.mn.us/cs/dfo/adultjuvenileprobation/Pages/default.aspx.
Myrent, Mark, and David E. Olson, PhD., (2000), Differences and Similarities Between Juvenile and Adult Probationers: Their Implications for Juvenile Justice Policy and Practice, (abstract), retrieved from: https://www.ncjrs.gov/App/Publications/abstract.aspx?ID=184158.
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