Seattle Municipal Court Probation Evolution Updates - August 2022


Probation Evolution

Equitable probation monitoring, focused on client success.


In this issue: 

  • New reporting guidelines starting this fall
  • Stakeholder feedback
  • Watch our June webinar
  • Goal & incentive-based case monitoring, this fall
  • A word from the bench
  • Project schedule
  • Next up
graphic with text "August 2022 quarterly updates"

New reporting guidelines coming this fall

Programs and Services no longer uses a "risk assessment tool" to determine how often probation clients are required to report to probation. The court's previous risk assessment tool was found to over-classify people's risk level and failed to identify client needs successfully.

New policies will replace the old system starting in October 2022. Everyone referred to probation will report in-person monthly for their first three months. If they are meeting their requirements, they will move to virtual or phone check-ins for three months. If clients remain on track, they will then move on to having no reporting requirement for the rest of their time on probation, as long as they continue meeting their other requirements. More about the new reporting guidelines.


Learn more: Join us for a deep-dive on the new reporting guidelines, case plan, and quarterly progress reports that will be going live with probation clients in October 2022. 

RSVP: SMC Probation Evolution Project Updates Webinar, September 7, 1:30 p.m. (Zoom)

Upcoming engagement: Responding to non-compliance

Part of a probation counselor’s job is to help clients stay in compliance with court-ordered conditions, such as attending chemical dependency treatment. Research has shown that responding to minor, technical probation violations with punitive measures like jail time further perpetuates a cycle of racial inequity in the criminal legal system.

We’re seeking input and ideas to help us reimagine an equitable policy around probation non-compliance. We're inviting stakeholders who engage with and understand the clients we serve in Probation Services to join this discussion and help inform our policy design.

This engagement session will be held via Zoom on August 17, 2022 from 1:30-3:30 p.m. If you'd like to add your voice to the conversation, please contact Community Outreach & Engagement Advisor Victoria Moreland

Stakeholders are hopeful

In June, we asked for feedback from former clients and local service providers about the new reporting guideline plan.

Q: What is equitable and fair in the plan?

Feedback: Everyone starts at the same place. Clients progress quicker based on performance. Improves equity by focusing on goals and barriers. "Wish this was in place when I was on probation."

Q: What could be better?

Feedback: Support illiterate clients in their native language. Make sure practices are consistent across all staff. Stop moving people to different counselors during probation. Address risk that probation counselors may have bias. 

We appreciate everyone who participated in our June feedback sessions. We're working on how we will address the recommendations we heard from you. Look out for updates on how we're responding to your feedback in the next quarterly update. 

Graphic with arrows: Receive feedback, Analyze program, Explore solutions, Design solution, Test solution design, Implement solution, Measure results

We use feedback to reimagine our services.

We are still inviting feedback about the new reporting guidelines. Share your thoughts by taking this survey.

June 2022 Probation Evolution Webinar

Screenshot from Probation Evolution webinar with PowerPoint slide and Judge Chess speaking

Judge Faye Chess and Programs & Services Manager Carol Bell co-hosted a webinar in June to provide an overview of what probation is, how it works, what we are doing to transform our system in the Probation Evolution project, and answer questions.

Watch the webinar

A word from the bench

The Probation Evolution project wouldn't be possible without the support of our bench. In July, Judge Willie Gregory stepped down as SMC Presiding Judge and stepped down from his role as a Probation Evolution Judicial Sponsor. Judge Adam Eisenberg is our new Presiding Judge and remains one of our Judicial Sponsors.

Both Judge Eisenberg and Judge Gregory have been deeply involved with the project since day one, so we asked for their perspective on Probation Evolution. 

Q: What is a judge’s role in an evolved probation system?

headshot of Judge Adam Eisenberg in judicial robes

Judge Eisenberg: Probation Evolution is moving us toward restorative justice, where we hold people accountable for their behavior without resorting to traditional models of incarceration, fines, or burdensome involvement in the court system. As judges, we must recognize everyone who comes before us has experienced trauma and help them heal by providing services and interventions that allow them to move on with their lives.  


headshot of Judge Willie Gregory in judicial robes

Judge Gregory: The judge’s role is to support the evolvement of the system; be a leader in the change. When we first moved to Electronic Case Management, we didn't do a good job of helping staff through the change. We didn’t lead the way by explaining that it was a new electronic system that works much better. The judge’s role is to be involved in the system to make sure we're serving the people who come to us well, modeling the change and accepting the change. Not doing this means others won't accept the change.

The judge’s role is also to make sure the probation counselors feel honored. The people in our probation unit are great people. They really care about the people they serve and want to help them get well. They work so hard to help people deal with the situations in their lives. I see them really embracing the change the project is bringing. This is what they do; they help people. The probation evolution project is not happening because the counselors were doing something wrong; it’s about the system as a whole being changed. We recognize there is systemic racism in the system and are working on getting rid of it in the system.

Read the full interview.

Goal and incentive-based case monitoring

chalkboard with GOALS written on it

Programs & Services will add goal and incentive-based case monitoring in October 2022. Case plans will include both court-ordered obligations and the client’s personal goals and needs. The plans will serve as a guide for the counselor and client as they work together.

Counselors will report overall progress on the case plan to all parties quarterly. The reports will show the client’s accomplishments, both court-ordered and personal. They will include progress with treatment, reporting, and avoiding new criminal offenses. The reports will also identify barriers to a client’s compliance, if any.

Want to learn more? RSVP for the September 7 webinar.


Project schedule

project schedule

The work to evolve probation continues. The project team’s current focus is looking at how Programs & Services will address situations where clients are non-compliant with their court-ordered conditions. We are looking forward to discovering new ways to support clients and adapt current practices to be more equitable.

Next up

graphic with text "person centered, empowerment, relational, innate capacities"

Upcoming policy development:

  • Gender- responsive case management.
  • Strength-based reporting.
  • Trauma-informed processes for transferring client to different counselors.

Questions? Feedback? Please reach out to