Probation Evolution: What’s next in 2022

SMC Probation Services’ goals are to improve peoples’ lives, eliminate disproportionate impacts on those we serve, and promote public safety.

We began the Probation Evolution project in June 2020 to redesign our approach to probation. This year, we’re working diligently to execute our project plan. Here is an overview of some of the changes happening at Seattle Municipal Court this year in our Probation Evolution project.

What’s changing

One big change was the decision in March to eliminate use of risk assessment tools to decide probation clients’ reporting frequency. The court’s risk assessment tool (the Wisconsin Model) was found to be failing to differentiate between risk levels, classifying 93 percent of people under SMC probation supervision as posing high public safety risk, with especially adverse effects on Black/African American and American Indian/Alaska Native clients.

Using what we’ve learned from previous feedback, we spent the spring developing a new model for determining clients’ reporting requirements. We worked this summer to collect client and stakeholder feedback on the new model and test our design. The new reporting guidelines are designed to ensure equitable outcomes for clients, and we will measure the impact of the reporting guidelines to confirm there are no adverse effects on people of color.

In-person reporting was suspended during the pandemic. Starting August 22, new clients referred to probation will be required report in-person for their initial probation intake appointment.

Starting in October, new clients referred to probation will start reporting in-person under the new reporting guidelines.

Here’s a preview of what we are implementing starting in October 2022:

New Reporting Guidelines

The court stopped use of the previous classification system based on the Wisconsin Model risk assessment tool on March 20, 2022. SMC has developed a new classification system, as required by State Court Rule ARLJ 11.2. The new classification system is broken up into three phases:

  • Phase 1:  All clients, regardless of offense, report in-person once a month for the first 90 days. After 3 months, reporting frequency will be driven by the client’s performance. If the client is successful staying compliant with their court-ordered conditions, they will then move to phase 2.
  • Phase 2: When a client has successfully moved to phase 2, they will report virtually (or by phone if a virtual meeting is not possible) once a month. After 90 days on phase 2, the client may move to phase 3 if they are successfully complying with conditions.
  • Phase 3: If a client remains in compliance with their conditions and identified benchmarks for reduction are met, the client moves into phase 3, which has no reporting requirement for the remainder of probation. The client still needs to keep up with their court-ordered conditions, but they no longer need to report to their counselor.
  • If a client falls out of compliance with their conditions during phase 2 or phase 3, they return to phase 1 and their counselor will submit progress report every 30 days until they are eligible for reduction.

Case planning

We want to ensure that counselors’ interactions with clients are meaningful and focused on meeting the clients’ needs and goals. Starting in October, we’re introducing a new case planning model.

The revised case plan is a probation agreement hybrid, replacing the current probation agreement with a client-informed document where all areas of focus and needed support are highlighted. The case plan will include the client’s court-ordered conditions plus their personal goals and needs in one document.

Quarterly progress reports submitted to the electronic case file

Also starting in October, we are replacing probation status reports with quarterly progress reports.

Progress reports will indicate a client’s current reporting phase (1, 2 or 3), their accomplishments, and any barriers they are facing. Preparing progress reports and submitting them to the portal quarterly will allow the defense, prosecutor, and judge to have a clear picture of each client’s journey through the system.

Learn more