The administration of juvenile probation services in Tennessee varies by county. 91 of the state’s counties use juvenile probation case managers that serve under the jurisdiction of the Division of Juvenile Justice of the Department of Children’s Services. Four counties have juvenile courts that manage juvenile probation services independently using probation officers that are referred to as youth services officers.
The presiding judge sets the requirements that the juvenile must follow. In 2011, 7,624 youths were sentenced to probation or supervision by juvenile courts. The jobs of the juvenile probation officers in Tennessee include managing the cases of the youths and ensuring that the juveniles are following the judge’s orders. Tennessee counties have a great deal of latitude in designating how juvenile probation officers manage their cases.
Becoming a Probation Officer in Tennessee: Education and Training Requirements
Applicants to county juvenile probation officer positions in Tennessee are required to have taken at least 60 semester or 90 quarter hours of coursework in areas such as social services or criminal justice. Additional requirements include having a driver’s license by the time of employment that is valid in Tennessee and having a source of transportation.
Counties such as Shelby require three years of experience for applicants that have an associate’s degree in one of the following or a closely related field:
- Child development
- Human services
Newly hired employees learn how to become juvenile probation officers in Texas by participating in 40 hours during their first year. Once they are established in their careers, officers must receive an additional 20 hours of training a year. Juvenile probation officers in Tennessee are trained by the Tennessee Juvenile Court Services Association and the Tennessee Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges.
Juvenile Crime in Tennessee
Although the number of referrals to juvenile court in Tennessee was higher in 2011 than in previous years, the number of referrals for youths that had committed violent crimes dropped substantially each year from 2008 to 2011. The caseload for these crimes in 2011 was 20% lower than that in 2008.
In 2011, 87,583 children were referred to juvenile court in Tennessee. Most of these referrals came from the East and mid-Cumberland regions of the state. The average age of those referred was 17, while slightly more than 33% of the referrals were for children age 10 or under.
Over 75% of the youths that were referred to family court had committed acts of juvenile delinquency, while the remaining cases were for status offenses. These are offenses such as truancy that would not be considered illegal acts for adults.
Seventy-nine percent of the referrals for delinquent acts came from law enforcement, while schools were the primary source of referrals for status offenses. The top six reasons for law enforcement officials to refer youths to juvenile court for delinquency in 2011 were:
- Traffic offenses
- Property thefts
- Disorderly conduct
- Possession of Controlled Substances
The primary reasons that youths were referred to juvenile court for status offenses were truancy and possession of tobacco products.