Seattle Municipal Court Probation Evolution Updates - November 2022


Probation Evolution

Equitable probation monitoring, focused on client success.


In this issue: 

  • Non-compliance policy preview
  • New probation policies 
  • Data on new classification system
  • Racial Equity Toolkit and community engagement
  • Women on probation feedback session
an envelope with text November 2022 quarterly updates

Next Up for Probation Evolution: Non-Compliance Policy

While many probation clients have the ability and resources to comply with their probation conditions, some struggle. Non-compliance, or a violation, occurs when a client does something contrary to what the court has required them to do. Clients who struggle with compliance often benefit from the supportive case management provided by probation counselors.

SMC is revising its non-compliance policy to create a consistent framework that focuses more resources on clients who have challenges following through with court-ordered conditions. 

The updated policy creates a decision-making framework that identifies three levels of non-compliance and the response protocols for each level. The protocols are responsive to escalating levels of non-compliance, with a focus on enhanced case management in hopes of resolving the issue without a court hearing where possible.

Read more about the updated policy, which we expect to implement in early 2023, on the court's news blog

Probation Evolution Webinar: Non-Compliance Policy

Register for a 45 minute webinar coming up November 18 from 1:30-2:15 p.m. via Zoom. SMC staff will present the updated policy and answer audience questions. 

Register for Webinar

Photo of courthouse hallway with windows overlooking downtown Seattle. Probation Evolution Non-Compliance Policy Webinar, 11/18/22, 1:30-2:45 p.m.

October 3 Go-Live: New Probation Policies

We are proud to share that beginning October 3, 2022, we launched three new case management practices as part of the Probation Evolution project: a new classification system and reporting guidelines, case plan, and quarterly progress reports. 

Reporting Guidelines/Classification System 

The new reporting guidelines are broken up into three phases. Clients will move to the next phase based on whether they are making progress on their court-ordered conditions.  

  • Phase 1:  All clients report in-person once a month for the first 90 days. After 3 months, if the client is successful staying compliant with their court-ordered conditions, they will move to phase 2. 
  • Phase 2: The client will report virtually (or by phone if a virtual meeting is not possible) once a month. After 90 days successfully on phase 2, the client may move to phase 3. 
  • Phase 3: Phase 3 has no reporting requirement for the remainder of probation. The client still needs to keep up with their court-ordered conditions, but they no longer need to report to their counselor. 

We are using a Racial Equity Toolkit to guide implementation of the new reporting guidelines, and we will evaluate the new system’s impact over the coming months. 

Case Plan 

The revised case plan will include the client’s court-ordered conditions plus their personal goals and needs in one document, where all areas of focus and needed support are highlighted. This will help ensure that counselors’ interactions with clients are meaningful and focused on meeting the clients’ needs and goals. 

Progress Reports 

The new progress reports will indicate a client’s current reporting phase (1, 2 or 3), their accomplishments, and any barriers they are facing. Preparing progress reports and submitting them to the online case information portal every quarter will allow the defense, prosecutor, and judge to have a clear picture of each client’s journey through the system. 

We sincerely appreciate the time and thoughtful input of our former clients, service providers, and other stakeholders who have weighed in on these new policies over the past several months. We look forward to sharing outcomes of this work as we analyze use of the new systems and report on equity metrics.  

Pie chart showing current probation caseload classifications. 52% (291 people) are phase 1, 22% (122 people) are phase 2, 27% (150 people) are phase 3

New Classification System By the Numbers

We are tracking data on how many people are in different phases of the classification system, and we are collecting survey responses from people going through our new intake process. 

We have a small number of people who have taken the survey so far, but the early results are a good sign. 100% of clients surveyed so far agree or strongly agree that: 

  • They were treated with dignity and respect by their PC.
  • They knew what was expected of them after meeting with their PC.
  • Their PC spent sufficient time with them, asked questions about their interests, needs, and/or goals, and answered their questions.

95% of clients agree or strongly agree that they understood the reporting phase process.

Racial Equity Toolkit and Community Engagement

Community engagement is a key piece of the Probation Evolution project. We are using the City of Seattle's Racial Equity Toolkit (RET) to evaluate our new classification system. This is to ensure that the new system has equitable outcomes for all groups. Using the RET has proven to be helpful in guiding the new classification system's implementation, evaluation, and engagement of stakeholders.

The RET has helped the team:

  • Increase engagement with the people impacted by the system, with ongoing opportunities for feedback.
  • Place an equity lens on the work to see blind spots in current policies and procedures impacting those we serve.
  • Engage stakeholders and clients to understand the needs and changes required to improve outcomes for clients. We have engaged over 100 stakeholders through webinars and feedback sessions since June.
  • Increase training to ensure probation staff have the skills to equitably serve clients
  • Track data and progress to know if what we are doing is working
Graphic with arrows: Receive feedback, Analyze program, Explore solutions, Design solution, Test solution design, Implement solution, Measure results

Women on Probation Roundtable Recap

Three cartoon women speaking with speech bubbles above their heads

Previous studies of our probation program identified a need to provide gender-responsive programming for women, particularly women of color. In September, we brought together a group of service providers and other organizations running women-specific programs to help us chart a course for developing women-informed probation practices, programming, and evaluation.

Highlights of what we heard:

  • Understand that women’s path to the criminal justice system is different from men’s
  • Ideas for staff trainings on how to support women on probation
  • Build partnerships with organizations that offer gender, queer, and race-informed programming
  • Continue to learn from clients, especially those who were not successful on probation, to see what they needed that they felt they did not get support with

Thank you to the people who participated in this session and gave us your valuable expertise. We are evaluating how we can incorporate what we learned into the department's training plans and practices. 


Questions? Feedback? Please reach out to