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New Probation Evolution Policies Going Live October 3, 2022

We are excited to share an update on the Probation Evolution project, which is the Seattle Municipal Court’s effort to step away from traditional incarcerative, reactionary approaches to misdemeanant supervision toward approaches that are hopeful, equitable, and supportive of client success and growth. 

How We Got Here 

Earlier this year in March, Probation Services discontinued use of risk assessment tools for determining how often probation clients are required to report.  

Risk assessment tools are used in many courts to address the risk of humans’ implicit bias in decision-making, but these tools often include factors that perpetuate systemic bias towards people of color. According to the 2020 Vera Institute of Justice Probation Services report, the court’s previous risk assessment tool failed to differentiate between risk levels, and had especially adverse effects on Black and Native American/Alaska Native clients.  

Probation Services eliminated use of the risk assessment tool as part of the court’s ongoing effort to evolve our approach to probation as a result of stakeholder feedback, program assessments, and our desire to eliminate disproportionate impacts on those we serve. Eliminating the risk assessment tool meant that we needed to find a new way to determine clients’ reporting schedule.  

Over the spring and summer months, Probation Services developed a new standardized classification system in compliance with Washington State Court Rule ARLJ 11.2, as well as new probation monitoring policies and procedures. In developing these policies, we have included former clients, community members, and stakeholders through webinars, focus groups, and surveys.  

New Case Management Practices  

We are proud to share that beginning October 3, 2022, we will launch three new case management practices: a new classification system and reporting guidelines, case plan, and quarterly progress reports. 

Reporting Guidelines/Classification System 

The new reporting guidelines are broken up into three phases. Clients will move to the next phase based on whether they are making progress on their court-ordered conditions.  

  • 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 conditions during Phase 2 or 3, they may be subject to increased contact and case management by the probation counselor and returned to Phase 1 and in-person reporting. 

We are using a Racial Equity Toolkit to guide implementation of the new reporting guidelines, and we will evaluate the new system’s impact over the coming months. 

Case Plan 

The revised case plan will include the client’s court-ordered conditions plus their personal goals and needs in one document, where all areas of focus and needed support are highlighted. This will help ensure that counselors’ interactions with clients are meaningful and focused on meeting the clients’ needs and goals. 

Progress Reports 

The new 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 online case information portal every quarter will allow the defense, prosecutor, and judge to have a clear picture of each client’s journey through the system. 

Watch our September webinar to learn more about these new policies and tools.  

What’s Next 

We sincerely appreciate the time and thoughtful input of our former clients, service providers, and other stakeholders who have weighed in on these new policies over the past several months. We look forward to sharing outcomes of this work as we analyze use of the new systems and report on equity metrics.  

You’re invited to stay in engaged with us on our Probation Evolution journey: