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Finding an Appropriate Balance: A Comparison of Specialized and Traditional Probation Caseloads and their Related Outcomes for Young Offenders in British Columbia

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Thesis type
(Dissertation) Ph.D.
Date created
A major youth justice policy issue in Canada is the management of young offenders who are mentally disordered, violent, and/or gang-involved. As probation is the most commonly applied youth sentence in Canada, specialized youth probation caseloads were introduced to meet the unique needs of these young offenders. These youth probation officers are assigned reduced caseloads, thereby facilitating more intensive supervision and individualized case management plans. The present study focuses on two specialized youth probation caseloads in Vancouver, British Columbia: the Serious-Violent/Gang-Involved Young Offender Caseload and the Mentally Disordered Young Offender Caseload. To determine whether the supervision received and the outcomes of specially supervised youth are different than those for youth supervised on traditional caseloads, this dissertation relies on data from 192 youth probationers’ case files assigned to a specialized or a traditional caseload in the Lower Mainland, between 2004 and 2011, and who had a mental health condition, a serious-violent conviction, or who were associated with a criminal organization. In addition, it includes seven semi-structured qualitative interviews with the youth probation officers who supervised the specialized caseloads. This mixed methodology permitted a careful examination of the in-depth profiles and specific typologies of the youth probationers; an evaluation of the practices employed by the specialist officers; and finally, an assessment of the outcomes of the youth probationers supervised by specialist probation officers compared to youth supervised by traditional probation officers, as measured through recidivism, chronic offending, and changes in risk assessment ratings. Several of the proposed research hypotheses were confirmed, as specially supervised youth probationers, overall, received more intensive supervision, as compared to youth who were assigned to traditional caseloads. Moreover, they had reduced probabilities of recidivism, had lower likelihoods of becoming chronic offenders, and had comparatively better risk assessment ratings than the traditionally managed young offenders. This research provides important implications related to the community supervision of mentally disordered and violent/gang young offenders, and recommendations for continued and future youth probation practices and policies are offered.
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Supervisor or Senior Supervisor
Thesis advisor: Corrado, Raymond
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