California Probation Chiefs Statement on Protocols Dedicated to Keeping Probation Clients, Staff and the Community Safe
SACRAMENTO – For the past decade California probation has been on the front lines of innovation changing and influencing the culture and focus of community corrections. Since the onset of the COVID 19 pandemic, county probation departments have been quickly adopting best practices to protect the health and safety of our probation clients, our staff and the community. County probation departments are coordinating closely with State officials, state and local courts, healthcare providers, district attorneys, public defenders, local jails, state prisons, and community providers to ensure any temporary changes take into account the health and safety of the individual, victims, and the community.
Due to the many reforms made within the state’s justice system, California remains ahead of the nation on many of the issues facing jails, prisons and the footprint of probation in other states. As a result, many low-level offenders in California’s system have already been shifted out of incarceration in favor of proven community supervision models that continue to protect community safety while helping rehabilitate offenders.
“California probation has followed federal, state and local health and safety guidelines enacting many protocols to help protect adults and youth under our care and supervision, continue to protect victims as well as the community in general, while also promoting the protection of our staff to the extent possible while still maintaining their essential role in public safety,” said Chief Brian Richart, President of the Chief Probation Officers of California. “Our focus has been and continues to be on tailoring solutions through evidence-based practices and cognitive interventions. That approach is now needed more than ever as we help state and local officials and the courts determine the supervision and supports people may need to prevent harm to themselves or others. We continue to support every facet of the justice system with our training and expertise to promote public safety and place an individual in the most safe and stable environment possible during this crisis.”
California probation departments have instituted the following measures for adult and youth in their care over the past several weeks. Examples include:
Instituting Measures to Keep Juveniles Safe
- Aligning Health and Safety Guidelines at Juvenile Detention Facilities: County Probation Departments are:
1) Restricting intake of youth with the exception of youth who have committed a serious offense and present an immediate risk to public safety or youth who, if immediately returned to the community, would be at risk for harm;
2) Assessing youth who can be safely returned home with services, supports and supervision; and
3) Instituting a number of measures to ensure the safety of youth and staff within our residential facilities including health screening, restricting visitations by making them available through technology platforms, offering distance learning programs, offering mental health services, and services through community providers and volunteers by remote means.
- Ensuring Stability of Probation Youth in Foster Care Placements: Probation departments are reaching out to short term residential treatment providers and resource parents to determine the stability of the youth residing in their homes or in congregate care to ensure the needs of youth are being met. If a child and family team meeting is needed, they are either arranged and held in-person using physical distancing or utilizing technology such Skype, Zoom or FaceTime.
Reducing and/or Suspending In-Person Meetings with Adult and Youth in the Community
Using Technology for Adult and Youth Check
Ins: Many probation departments are using technology
platforms to check-in with adults and youth on probation
supervision and Post Release Community Supervision (PRCS) when
appropriate and safe to do so. This allows probation officers
to maintain contact and determine if any special needs exist
that may require action or support such as coping with the
Attending to High-Risk & High-Needs
Individuals: For high-risk and high-needs individuals,
probation officers are conducting in-person supervision where
possible as many are experiencing additional stress which could
lead to harmful actions against themselves or others. Probation
officers use all health guidelines to protect clients and staff
including the recommended six-foot physical distancing and
meeting outside of an individuals’ homes.
Focusing on Wellness Over Technical
Compliance: Much of the field work during this time is
focused less on compliance and more on wellness. We have
limited technical violations of probation to only address the
most serious threats to public safety during this crisis.
- Suspending and/or Limiting Requirements for Adults and Youth: County and community classes and programs have been suspended while the executive orders are in effect. When possible, these classes and programs have or are moving to distance learning so that services can continue to benefit our probation clients.
Using All Available Tools to Follow Health Protocols and Keep Probation Clients and Community Safe
Reduce Need for Jail Beds: County probation
departments continue to review and amend our policies and
practices to reduce the need for jail beds, including
restricting the use of flash incarceration for technical
violations of probation. This requires increased reliance on
our interpersonal relationships with clients, positive
reinforcement and cognitive interventions versus technical
violations when safe to do so.
- Requesting Assistance with Housing Needs: There has always existed a significant strain on our client population to attain stable housing. These needs are acute in the re-entry process and have been worsened by the pandemic. Currently providers with whom we have contracted are no longer willing or able to provide beds and we are urgently working to identify solutions to avoid creating a new emergency within an existing emergency.
Supporting the Courts and Ensuring Individuals’ Rights and Due Process Continue to be Protected
- Using Technology: Local courts have significantly curtailed their essential functions temporarily in order to abide by public health guidelines. As such, county probation departments are working to identify which functions can be accomplished using technology to avoid clients from having to travel to offices or courthouses. Probation is also working with courts and county officials to utilize pretrial options or probation supervision to assist in managing jail space.
Using Probation Trained Officers to Fill Need in Counties
- Filling the Need with Trained and Trauma-Informed Officers: Probation’s unique skill sets lend themselves to a variety of essential functions during every crisis. Probation is coordinating requests from counties to manage shelters, provide transport for potentially COVID 19 positive individuals, or fill the need of sheriff and police departments with our specialized and well-trained officers.
California probation will continue to evolve as needed with the best practices and health and safety guidelines available to provide clients, staff and the community with the safest available environment during this crisis.
Questions or more information, contact Laura Dixon at email@example.com.
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