Tool B-1: Frequently Asked Questions
Nebraska's Probation System
The following summarizes questions about Nebraska’s Probation System often posed by the primary systems involved in the education of students in out-of-home care. The responses are based on Nebraska statute, administrative rules, regulations and State agency memoranda. While statutory law, rules and regulations may address these topics in general terms, familiarity and discussion as to how the Office of Probation Administration’s policies, procedures and Court protocols may relate to a particular youth under a specific set of circumstances is recommended as a matter of “best practice” and may greatly assist in advocating for that student and the achievement of his or her academic and vocational goals.
For more information about Nebraska’s Office of Probation Administration, refer to Nebraska Revised Statutes (NRS) §43-246 to 43-286 for Juvenile Probation, and NRS §29-2257 to 29-2264 for Adult Probation. Additional information is available on the Nebraska Office of Probation Administration website: http://court.nol.org/probation/index.shtml
While Nebraska’s Probation System serves both juvenile and adult offenders, the following “Frequently Asked Questions” primarily focus on youth under the jurisdiction of Juvenile Court or a criminal court with adult jurisdiction (County Court or District Court). Topics related to children and youth are involved in the Child Welfare System due to abuse, neglect or dependency are addressed in the Systems Tool Kit - Part Two: Nebraska’s Child Welfare System.
Office of Probation Administration
1. What is the Office of Probation Administration?
The Office of Probation Administration is the State agency, organizationally housed under the Nebraska Supreme Court, responsible for central management of probation services throughout the state. Since its creation in 1957, Nebraska’s Probation System has provided Pre-Disposition and Pre-Sentence Investigations, supervision, monitoring, programming and coordination of related services for juvenile and adult offenders eligible for probation under Court suspension of sentence. The Office of Probation Administration’s stated mission is the delivery of “a system of seamless services which are founded on evidence-based practices and valued by Nebraska’s communities, victims, offenders and courts . . . creating constructive change through rehabilitation, collaboration, and partnership in order to enhance safe communities.”
2. How many Probation Districts are there in Nebraska and where are they located?
There are fourteen (14) Probation Districts located throughout Nebraska. Twelve (12) of the Probation Districts correspond with the state’s twelve (12) District Court Judicial Districts, while the two (2) additional Probation Districts solely serve the Separate Juvenile Courts in Douglas County and Lancaster County, respectively.
To view an interactive Map of Nebraska’s Probation Districts, refer to the Office of Probation Administration website: http://www.supremecourt.ne.gov/probation/Map_Data/Dist_Bio.pdf
3 . What is the role of a Probation Officer?
A Probation Officer is a State employee who is responsible for the supervision of juveniles and/or adults placed on probation (probationers) by a judge in Juvenile Court, County Court or District Court. The Probation Officer also conducts Pre-Disposition Investigations (PDI) of juveniles in Juvenile Court and Pre-Sentence Investigations (PSI) for the County and District Courts.
The Probation Officer provides case management, supervision and monitoring of each probationer’s compliance with the court-ordered conditions of probation and progress in making necessary changes to reduce the likelihood of future law violations. Case management may include regularly scheduled visits between the Probation Officer and probationer as well as school staff, employers and/or family members. The probationer may also be required to undergo drug/alcohol testing and participate in home detention, electronic monitoring or tracking programs.
In addition to their investigative and supervisory roles, Probation Officers work closely with local problem-solving courts, such as the Drug Courts established in several counties. Probation Officers also supervise adult offenders transitioning from the McCook Work Ethic Camp, operated in cooperation with the Nebraska Department of Correctional Services.
4. What is the difference between a Probation Officer and a Juvenile Service Officer (JSO)?
A Probation Officer is an employee of the Nebraska State Probation Administration, while a Juvenile Services Officer is an employee of Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services – Division of Children and Family Services’ Office of Juvenile Services (DHHS-OJS). Both provide community-based supervision, monitoring and case management of youth who have violated the law. During a Disposition Hearing, the Juvenile Court Judge will make the determination as to which State agency is responsible for supervising and meeting the needs of a juvenile who has been adjudicated as delinquent. The parents typically retain custody when a youth is placed on probation while a juvenile committed to DHHS-OJS becomes a State ward.
For more information about Juvenile Service Officers and the Youth Rehabilitation and Treatment Centers, refer to the Systems Tool Kit - Part Three, Section D. Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services – Division of Children and Family Services’ Office of Juvenile Services.
Juvenile Detention Intake
1. What is the Juvenile Detention Intake Process and the Probation Officer’s role?
When a law enforcement officer takes a juvenile into temporary custody for allegedly committing a law violation, that officer must immediately take reasonable measures to notify the youth’s parent, guardian, custodian or relative and then proceed as follows:
- Release the juvenile;
- Release the juvenile after issuing a written notice to appear in Juvenile Court, specifying the time and place of the court appearance and reason(s) for temporary custody; or
- Retain temporary custody of the juvenile and notify a Probation Officer.
Upon being notified, the Probation Officer immediately investigates the nature and circumstances of the events leading to the youth being taken into temporary custody. If the law enforcement officer is seeking temporary placement of a juvenile who is seriously endangered in his or her surroundings and immediate removal appears to be necessary for the child’s protection, the law enforcement officer must notify the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) rather than a Probation Officer.
The Probation Officer uses a standardized screening form to determine the need for detention, whether it be in a secure (locked), staff-secure or non-secure (unlocked) facility. The law enforcement officer retains temporary custody of the juvenile pending the Probation Officer’s decision on whether to detain. If the Probation Officer decides it is in the juvenile’s best interests, the youth may be immediately released to the parent, guardian, relative or other responsible person. However, the Probation Officer will not release the juvenile if it appears detention or out-of-home placement is a matter of immediate and urgent necessity for any of the following reasons:
- Protection of the juvenile;
- Protection of another person;
- Protection of another’s property; or
- It appears the juvenile is likely to flee the Court’s jurisdiction.
(Source: Nebraska Revised Statute (NRS) §43-248; NRS §43-250; NRS §43-253; and NRS §43-260)
1. What is a Pre-Disposition Investigation (PDI)?
A Pre-Disposition Investigation is a written report developed and submitted by a Probation Officer to a Juvenile Court Judge for consideration in a juvenile’s disposition (similar to sentencing). When a youth is charged as an adult in criminal court (County Court or District Court), the Probation Officer conducts a Pre-Sentence Investigation (PSI).
2. What is included in a Pre-Disposition Investigation?
A Pre-Disposition Investigation typically includes the following components:
- The Probation Officer’s interviews with the youth and the family;
- Summary of the juvenile’s criminal history, investigative information and reports from law enforcement;
- Determination of the level of supervision needed based on a standardized risk assessment, such as the Youth Level of Service (YLS);
- Additional information relevant to the case, such as mental health and/or substance abuse evaluations, school records, the juvenile’s statement and the victim’s statement; and
- The Probation Officer’s recommendations for disposition of the case.
Juveniles on Probation
1. How is a juvenile placed on probation?
A juvenile who has been found to have committed a law violation may be placed on probation by a Juvenile Court Judge or a criminal court with adult jurisdiction (County Court or District Court). The Judge will specify the length of probation and the conditions and terms which must met by the probationer in a Probation Order. Following the Disposition Hearing in Juvenile Court or sentencing in County Court or District Court, the probationer is assigned a Probation Officer who he or she will meet with on a regular basis.
2. What happens to a juvenile placed on probation?
When a juvenile is placed on probation, it is generally for a determinate period of time, such as six (6) months or one (1) year. The parents typically retain legal custody and the youth continues to reside at home. However, under some circumstances, a Juvenile Court Judge may choose to place the juvenile in out-of-home care.
As a probationer, the youth must abide by the conditions and terms specified by the judge in the Probation Order. Common conditions and terms for juveniles include:
- Meet with the Probation Officer on a regular basis;
- Maintain good conduct and refrain from any further law violations;
- No contact with specified individuals;
- Abstain from drugs and alcohol, subject to random urine testing;
- Complete a specific number of hours of community service;
- Pay restitution, fines and/or court costs;
- Abide by a specified curfew;
- Participate in home detention, electronic monitoring or a tracker program, if necessary; and/or
- Any other conditions ordered by the judge.
3. What type of programs and services might a juvenile on probation be referred to?
A probationer may be referred to a variety of community-based programs and services based on his or her individual needs and the conditions and terms of the Probation Order. Examples of common referrals include:
- Mental health counseling and treatment;
- Substance abuse counseling and treatment;
- Alcoholics Anonymous (AA), Narcotics Anonymous (NA), or Al-Anon;
- Cognitive Thinking groups, as appropriate;
- Gender-specific programs or groups;
- Victim / Offender Mediation, as appropriate;
- Workforce Development programs;
- Vocational Rehabilitation (VR) services for those with eligible disabilities;
- Driver Safety classes; and/or
- Other self-improvement programs, groups or courses.
For more information about Community-Based Rehabilitation Programs, such as Pre-Trial Diversion, Electronic Monitoring and Tracker Programs, as well as Drug Courts and Victim / Offender Mediation, refer to the Systems Tool Kit - Part Three, Section C.
4. Are there any education-related requirements for a juvenile on probation?
Yes. Under Nebraska statute, any individual less than nineteen (19) years of age under the supervision of a Probation Officer must, as a condition of probation, be required to do the following:
- Attend school to obtain vocational training or achieve an appropriate education level as prescribed by the Probation Officer after consultation with the school;
- Attend an on-the-job training program; or
- Secure and maintain employment.
(Source: Nebraska Revised Statute §29-2270; and NRS §29-2272)
5. What happens if a juvenile violates probation?
If a probationer does not satisfactorily meet or violates the conditions and terms of the Probation Order, the Probation Officer may impose additional administrative sanctions or recommend to the judge that probation be revoked; whichever best assures the youth’s accountability and public safety. If probation is revoked, the Judge may order one of the following alternative dispositions:
- Continued probation for an extended period of time and/or more intensive community-based supervision and programming;
- Continued probation and placement in out-of-home care, such as a group home, residential treatment program or institution;
- Commitment to the DHHS-OJS for community-based supervision, case management, programming and/or out-of-home care; or
- Commitment to DHHS-OJS for residential placement, programming and services at a Youth Rehabilitation and Treatment Center.
For more information about the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services – Division of Children and Family Services’ Office of Juvenile Services and the Youth Rehabilitation and Treatment Centers, refer to the Systems Tool Kit - Part Three, Section D.
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