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Building off years of reform efforts and in partnership with a broad cross-section of local stakeholders, Multnomah County is hosting an examination and transformation of juvenile probation. Supervising Attorney Lisa Kay Williams serves on the project steering committee, along with partners from the juvenile department, district attorneys office, community program providers, and courts.

Created by the Annie E Casey Foundation, the underlying principle is promoting public safety by engaging youth and providing them with opportunities, in ways that promote racial and ethnic equity.

The juvenile probation system is a primary driver of youth incarceration, with national data showing 20% of youth in custody are there because of technical violations, not law violations. Multnomah County data confirms these disparities: youth of color are widely over-represented in probation dispositions (76% of probation dispositions, 51% Black, 16% Latinx) and youth of color are under-represented in diversion (white youth comprise 50% of diversion, 28% Black youth, 19% Latinx youth).

Our current system of complex, surveillance-oriented probation is not an effective strategy for reversing delinquent behavior, with insignificant effects on reoffending and especially poor results with youth at low risk of rearrest.1 This project provides an opportunity to revisit roles, to find new agreements, and to settle on shared values, all aimed at promoting community safety through youth and family engagement.

1Annie E. Casey, Transforming Juvenile Probation, https://www.aecf.org/m/resourcedoc/aecf-transformingjuvenileprobation-2018.pdf#page=20 (2018).