Child Crime Prevention & Safety Center

Juvenile Probation Community Control

Increasingly, juvenile courts across the country are moving away from the use of long-term incarceration as a punishment for juvenile offenders and are instead moving towards rehabilitation revolving around community control. Community control sanctions differ between jurisdictions but include a wide range of residential, non-residential and financial sanctions that judges may impose when sentencing juvenile offenders. Community control typically stresses rehabilitation over punishment and is designed to help juvenile offenders turn their lives around.

What Is Community Control?

Community control includes various programs and residential options for juvenile offenders that keep these minors in the community instead of removing them from their homes and schools and detaining them in locked juvenile facilities. Studies have increasingly shown that detention in locked facilities can be psychologically damaging to minors and removal from their home and community can be potentially devastating to their mental and physical development.

Community control can include residential, non-residential and financial options. Residential community control can include community-based detention facilities, halfway homes, and juvenile probation camps. Non-residential options include supervision, drug and alcohol treatment, house arrest and electronic home monitoring, community service, education and other similar programs. Financial sanctions can include fines, restitution, and other financial penalties.

Benefits of Community Control

Community control allows juvenile offenders to remain in their communities, which has been shown to have many benefits. Removing a minor from his or her family, school and social network has been shown to have devastating effects and can actually lead to increased rates of recidivism.

When a minor is placed on community control, he or she will be assigned a juvenile probation officer who will closely monitor the minor’s progress and compliance with the terms of probation. The Court will usually require the minor to make frequent appearances to ensure he or she is in compliance with the Court’s probation order. Any violation can result in the minor being taken into custody and sent to a locked detention facility or other punitive measures.

In some cases where community control is a viable option, the minor may not have a safe or reliable home environment. In these cases, juvenile probation will make efforts to place the minor in a suitable group home or with a foster family. If the minor has special needs, finding a suitable placement may take extra effort. The goal of community control is to ensure the minor is in a safe and nurturing environment, and the Court and probation will do whatever it can to facilitate this.

In addition, community control has been shown to have an economic advantage to detention in a locked facility. Community control is significantly less expensive than housing a minor in a detention facility and state and local authorities throughout the country have adopted these alternatives.

Locked juvenile facilities have received increased scrutiny as a result of numerous incidents of reported abuse nationwide and shocking cases where minors are placed in solitary confinement indefinitely and are deprived access to medical and psychological treatment. In addition, studies have shown that minors who are incarcerated actually have higher levels of recidivism than those placed on probation or other forms of community control.

When Is Community Control Appropriate?

Community control is typically appropriate for minors who have no prior record or who commit a misdemeanor or low-level felony offenses. Minors who commit serious felonies such as murder, rape or other crimes may be placed in a locked facility. In some cases, these juvenile offenders can have their cases moved to adult criminal court where they can be sentenced as adults to prison sentences.

However, states are increasingly relying on community control alternatives as opposed to prison and locked juvenile facilities as the benefits of community control gain wide acceptance and locked detention is increasingly disfavored. As psychologists and social scientists learn more about the effectiveness of community control in contrast to sentences in locked facilities, these types of dispositions are expected to be more common.