Skip to content

Systems in Crisis: Rethinking the Juvenile Justice Workforce and Foundational Strategies for Improving Public Safety and Youth Outcomes

The Issue

Juvenile corrections and probation agencies have long struggled to recruit and retain front-line staff. But since the inception of the COVID-19 pandemic, these challenges have reached unprecedented levels.

Public agencies are struggling to provide youth with even basic supervision and services and to safeguard the well-being of their staff and the youth they serve. Juvenile justice staffing shortages extend to public defenders and prosecutors, forcing youth to go without counsel and causing court delays. And service providers can’t maintain adequate staffing, which results in overcrowding, waiting lists, or leaving youth and families without viable options to get their critical needs met.

A Call to Action

We call on policymakers and juvenile justice system leaders nationwide to wrestle with three critical questions that sit at the heart of ongoing juvenile justice staffing instability:

  1. Who are the individuals who should be responsible for protecting community safety and working with the most vulnerable adolescents in your state or community?
  2. What treatment environments best support improved public safety and outcomes not only for youth but for the professionals who are responsible for their safety, supervision, and rehabilitation?
  3. What interventions matter when it comes to reducing recidivism and supporting youth to transition to a crime-free, productive adulthood?   

Grounded in research and lessons learned on “what works” from the past two decades, our brief, Systems in Crisis: Revamping the Juvenile Justice Workforce and Core Strategies for Improving Public Safety and Youth Outcomes, and the accompanying fact sheets that detail shorter-term hiring and retention best practices can help jurisdictions rethink their juvenile justice staffing and workforce.

Project Credits

Writing: Josh Weber and Christina Gilbert,CSG Justice Center

Research: Mindy Schweitzer, Tammi Dean, Ashleigh Lacourse, Kristin Lurie, and Andrew Krebs, UCCI; Shay Bilchik, Michael Umpierre, and christian bijoux, Center for Juvenile Justice Reform

Editing: Leslie Griffin, CSG Justice Center

Web Development: Nick Gehring, eleventy marketing group; Yewande Ojo, CSG Justice Center

Public Affairs: Sarah Kelley, CSG Justice Center

We would also like to thank the Council of Juvenile Justice Administrators and the American Probation and Parole Association for helping to disseminate our national survey to state and local juvenile correctional and detention agencies, as well as state and local juvenile probation agencies, on staff hiring and retention. 

This project was prepared by The Council of State Governments Justice Center with support from the U.S. Department of Justice’s Office of Justice Programs’ Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention through grant number 15PJDP-21-GK-03216- JRIX. The opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect those of the U.S. Department of Justice.