Are juvenile probation and community service alternatives to detention?

In many cases, a judge may sentence a juvenile alleged to have committed an act of juvenile delinquency to juvenile probation or community service rather than detention. A juvenile who is interested in being placed on juvenile probation and doing community service should voice their interest in these options in juvenile court before being sentenced.

The juvenile should state, at the sentencing hearing, that they want to be placed on juvenile probation and do community service to avoid being placed in a juvenile detention center. Judges will not automatically consider these options in sentencing. There is no guarantee that a request to be placed on juvenile probation or do community service will result in a juvenile not being placed in a detention center.

Many juveniles choose not to be placed on juvenile probation or ordered to do community service. They feel that they cannot abide by the restrictions for these sentences. For juvenile probation, these may include curfew, and the requirement to report to a juvenile probation officer regularly. For community service, these may include completing a certain number of hours for community service by a specified deadline.

A judge's sentence usually depends on the gravity of the offense alleged to have been committed, the history of the juvenile, and the circumstances of the juvenile. A juvenile who is accused of a serious offense, such as fleeing from the police in a stolen vehicle, may not be released from a detention center and placed on juvenile probation. A juvenile who has previously been placed on juvenile probation and has failed to report regularly may not be offered the option of probation. A juvenile who has no way of reaching a location to do community service may not be sentenced to community service.

The purpose of the juvenile justice system is to rehabilitate rather than punish. The judge's sentence is an effort to change how the juvenile acts. Judges often place juveniles on juvenile probation if they feel probation would help them accomplish other parts of their sentence. Some of the reasons that a judge might place a juvenile on juvenile probation would be to allow that juvenile to pay restitution to an alleged victim, complete community service hours, attend school, go to see a social worker, and begin drug counseling or mental health counseling outside of a juvenile detention center.