Probation Evolution

Evolution of Probation Services at Seattle Municipal Court

At Seattle Municipal Court (SMC), we pride ourselves on being an innovative and accessible court that seeks to holistically address the underlying needs that bring people through our doors. We are committed to continuously improving how we work with individuals across all areas of our court. In 2019, we sought an evaluation of our Probation Services by the Vera Institute of Justice, aiming to identify ways to most effectively serve our clients and improve our program.

Vera is an independent nonprofit research and policy organization that works to build and improve justice systems that ensure fairness, promote safety, and strengthen communities. Recommendations from the Vera evaluation give Probation Services a path forward to undo systemic inequity and serve the people of Seattle most effectively.

The research that informed Vera's report occurred in 2019, before the COVID-19 pandemic. The spread of the virus has heightened the urgency to reevaluate practices that enmesh people in the criminal legal system.

We agree with the report's key recommendations to adopt a "less is more", goal-based supervision approach. By embracing the six principles of effective community supervision outlined by Vera, we demonstrate SMC's core values of fairness, integrity and justice.

Vera Institute Evaluation of SMC Probation Services
Understanding the Data in the Vera Institute Evaluation

What is Probation at SMC?

Probation is a post-adjudication jail alternative in which counselors are paired with clients to support them as they meet court ordered obligations, which often include engagement in drug treatment or other therapeutic interventions. Judges rely on probation as a rehabilitative alternative to jail to address high public safety risk offenses, that are not diversion eligible, and it is vital that Probation Services be as effective as possible in permanently transitioning clients out of the criminal legal system.

Programs and Services at SMC

Actions SMC is Taking Now

View our work through a race and social justice lens, and change policies to ensure equity.

Switch to a goal-based case management approach aimed at addressing the root causes of criminal behavior.

Counselors will issue orders to close and end supervision as soon as clients achieve court obligations and incentivize success to make probation terms as brief as possible.

Develop and institute a Client's Bill of Rights and exit survey. 

Reduce administrative record checks.

Launch a revamped Community Court later in 2020 and expand diversion programs.

Replacing case management applications by mid-2022 to better track performance metrics and client outcomes.

Rely on feedback from probation clients, service providers, system stakeholders and community members to inform our work.

Stay Involved

Vera's recommendations give us a path to achieve our goals more effectively. As we evolve how probation is used at SMC, we are eager to engage with our community and ask you to join us on this journey to make this the best probation program in the country.

  • Sign up for updates from Probation Services on where we are in the evolution process.
  • Follow @SeaMuniCourt on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram to stay informed on court news and opportunities to give feedback.