Watch Seattle Probation Evolution Webinar

On Friday June 24, Seattle Municipal Court hosted a webinar that explains how probation works and some of the work we are doing to transform our system in the Probation Evolution project. Judge Faye Chess and Programs & Services Manager Carol Bell presented and answered questions from audience members.

If you missed it, you can check out the Probation Evolution webinar recording.

Thank you to everyone who participated!

Questions and Answers

There were two questions we didn’t have time to answer during the one hour webinar, so we are including answers to those questions below.

Question: How are you giving the clients agency for their situations?

Answer: Clients have agency in choosing where they receive therapeutic support, what day and time they connect with their probation counselor within a dedicated window of time, the ability to reschedule appointments with their probation counselor, and grace when finances or life circumstances create a barrier to follow through with court-ordered conditions.

Additionally, clients will have agency addressing their own personal goals and needs beyond court-ordered conditions. During our case planning process, clients will identify their own goals and needs that they want to work towards during their time on probation. For example, if a client needs to get their driver’s license re-instated, then that might be added as a goal to their case plan. Previously, counselors may have helped clients with their personal goals, but it wasn’t a formal part of probation. With the new model, the counselor would be responsible for checking in with clients and offering support to meet both the court-ordered obligations and the client’s personal goals.

It should be noted that many of the clients referred to probation come to us as part of an agreed resolution to their case (Dispositional Continuance, Deferred Prosecution, Stipulated Order Continuance, etc.), allowing them to have influence on the court-ordered obligations for their case prior to coming to probation.

We are also introducing a number of surveys for clients to complete during the probation life cycle giving them an opportunity to share feedback.

Questions: What happens if defendants provide information about ongoing criminal activity to their probation counselor? Does the probation counselor need to report that to the court? Is the defendant aware of that? If that reporting will happen or could happen, how can the defendant fully and accurately share their challenges?

Answer: We really appreciate your input and inquiry on this. We have a sincere desire to build trust with clients while balancing our duty to the court. Probation counselors hold clients accountable while guiding them on a therapeutic path to getting healthy.

We are not law enforcement officers; however, we are compelled to report violations of the law to the appropriate authority. We realize a client may have some hesitancy in sharing certain information with their probation counselor. However, safety for all is most important. As we review our intake process, we are building in discussion points to ensure that counselors explain the non-compliance process and our duty to report any new criminal law violations.

If a client shares issues they have with ongoing chemical dependency, we will work with the client providing them appropriate resources that align with their court-ordered obligations and will support them on a path to best possible life condition.

If you have further questions, please feel free to reach out to smc_pio@seattle.gov.

You can also learn more about the Probation Evolution project on our website, and sign up for newsletter updates