The Austin Chronicle

Probation Failing Young Offenders

Texas Criminal Justice Coalition report says there has to be a better way

By Michael King, August 17, 2018, News

The Texas Criminal Justice Coalition, a research and advocacy organization on CJ reform, has just issued a report on the use of probation for youthful offenders in Texas. "Young Adults and Community Supervision: The Need for a Devel­opmentally Appropriate Approach to Probation," by Joshua Cuddy, Doug Smith, and Lindsey Linder, reports that "young adults placed on adult probation for felony offenses are far more likely to be revoked and sent to prison than older adults." TCJC's statistical review reflects that in 2017, only 18% of 17-21 year olds successfully completed felony probation, while for older groups (i.e., those over 25), more than 60% emerged from probation without reoffending (or violating parole) and being returned to prison.

The report notes that recent brain research has demonstrated that the brains of young people – specifically, the prefrontal cortex – continue developing into their 20s, and until that happens, they struggle with "judgment, impulse control, and organized planning," and are more readily subject to peer pressure. The authors argue that juvenile probation procedures (currently ended in Texas at 17) should continue as late as age 25, and more specifically that "the most effective approach for reducing criminal justice system involvement among young adults is one that integrates community-based strategies." The report makes a series of recommendations that the authors say would reduce recidivism, improve individual outcomes, save state funding, and "dramatically reduce rates of re-arrest and revocation and improve outcomes for this important demographic."

The report is the first of four in a series TCJC calls "One Size Fails All," and will be followed by others addressing probation policy recommendations for "people with substance use and mental health issues, the LGBTQ community, and people without stable housing supports."

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