Wyoming continues to struggle with one of the highest juvenile detention rates in the country. This is more a result of a complex justice system that lacks distinct juvenile courts in many parts of the state. Despite the Wyoming Juvenile Justice Act, Adult misdemeanor courts are often utilized to process between 85 and 90 percent of juvenile offenders in the state.
While there is a Wyoming Juvenile Justice Act that supports treatment and rehabilitation of juvenile offenders, entry into the adult justice system often prevents access to rehabilitative options. This makes the job of Wyoming’s juvenile probation officers all the more vital as they work to assist young offenders navigate the state’s justice system in hopes of helping reintegrate them into society.
Education and Training to Become a Juvenile Probation and Parole Officer
Candidates interested in finding out how to become juvenile probation and parole officers in Wyoming must possess a bachelor’s or master’s degree in a field related to juvenile justice. Three or four years of professional experience working with the juvenile justice system is also required. Candidates for juvenile probation officer jobs in Wyoming should possess the following skills
- License to drive a vehicle
- Ability to operate computers
- Interview or interrogate victims, accused offenders and others
- Investigative techniques
- Collect and produce accurate records
- Superior verbal and written communication
- Establish and cultivate relationships
- Recognize indications of abuse, mental illness or substance abuse
- Testify in court
- Learn and apply state, municipal or federal statutes
Upon becoming a juvenile probation and parole officer in Wyoming, new hires must complete a 32-hour training program within the first six months. Wyoming does not currently mandate that officers receive ongoing training throughout their careers.
Challenges Facing Wyoming’s Juvenile Probation and Parole Officers
Wyoming compounds this inability to distinguish youths from adults in the courts by often housing youths in adult detention facilities. There has also been severe criticism that many youth facilities are not required to meet uniform standards and may be quite inadequate for meeting youth needs. The Wyoming Survey & Analysis Center at the University of Wyoming conducted a study and recommended
- Establish a state-wide juvenile court system
- Comprehensive juvenile justice system with uniform standards
- Introduce systematic data collection and evaluation mechanisms
- Create a system that emphasizes restorative justice principles
- Build youth only detention facilities or transportation systems for juveniles to house them in youth only facilities
This presents several challenges to juvenile probation and parole officers operating throughout the state. The Wyoming Department of Family Services administrates these probation and parole services through 31 field offices. Wyoming also supports Wyoming Juvenile Justice, which is a state advisory board that provides advice to the state on local juvenile programs.
Juvenile probation is often supervised by DFS and is usually extended to about 10 to 15 percent of juvenile offenders. There is very little multi-agency cooperation and different parts of the state utilize various standards for incarceration or rehabilitation. Juvenile probation and parole officers must modify their methods when working with regionally distinct organizations. Although the state is in the midst of correcting some of these issues, it may be some time before a comprehensive overhaul of Wyoming’s juvenile justice system is completed.