Probation Evolution

Evolving Probation Services at Seattle Municipal Court

In June 2020, Seattle Municipal Court released an evaluation of our Probation Services department commissioned from the Vera Institute of Justice. In 2021, the Seattle Office of the City Auditor released an additional assessment of Probation Services.

Based on the findings in both assessments and our goal of eliminating disproportionate impacts on those we serve, the court is evolving its probation program.

What is Changing?

We have made several changes to our probation program so far. This includes:

  • Focused probation on high-risk case types, such as driving under the influence (DUI) and domestic violence cases
  • Discontinued criminal records checks after clients complete court-ordered obligations, except in DUI cases where an ignition interlock device (IID) is required by statute
  • Eliminated discretionary probation fees
  • Implemented a new case closure policy, requiring probation counselors to administratively close probation and stop monitoring as soon as a client's conditions are met
  • Began collecting client-reported race and ethnicity data to improve our ability to track outcomes for different demographic groups
  • Implemented a client exit survey
  • As of March 21, 2022, eliminated use of risk assessment tools for determining a probation client's reporting frequency

In 2022, we are working towards:

  • Working with community and legal system stakeholders to develop a standardized classification system, in accordance with court rules, that determines a probation client's frequency and method of reporting, without relying on factors that can produce a race/ethnicity/gender bias
  • Implementing a comprehensive diversity, equity, and inclusion approach across the court, including in Probation Services
  • Revising probation policies and procedures with a focus on reducing clients' length and intensity of supervision by rewarding and incentivizing completion of court-imposed therapeutic conditions
  • Developing on-going training opportunities for probation counselors focused on continuing education in the areas of trauma-responsive care, harm reduction, and motivational interviewing
  • Completing an analysis of race and gender disproportionalities across three primary probation case types: DV, DUI, and Mental Health Court

Probation Services Data Reports

What is Probation at SMC?

By providing post-adjudication case management, Probation Services supports individuals to complete their court-ordered conditions and address underlying behavioral health concerns such as substance abuse, mental illness, and intimate partner violence.

Judges rely on probation as a therapeutic-focused alternative to jail that is responsive to high public safety risk offenses. Probation Services' goal is to support clients working to transition out of the criminal legal system. We do this by supporting the client's successful completion of court-imposed therapeutic conditions, along with facilitating clients' access to services and support in any other areas of need. 

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