Coalition of Probation Unions develop 3-point plan to strengthen probation department

As National Crime Victims' Rights Week begins, the Coalition of Probation Unions, which includes AFSCME Local 1967 and AFSCME Local 685, called on state and local officials to strengthen and modernize the Los Angeles County Probation Department at a press conference Monday.

The LA County Probation Department is responsible for enhancing public safety, ensuring victims’ rights, and effecting positive behavioral changes in probationers, but understaffing, violence against staff, and insufficient rehabilitation programs have made this mission increasingly difficult for probation officers. “We used to have a real powerful treatment model that included programs that directly led to lessening the population in our institution,” said AFSCME Local 1967 President Deborah Lares. “The programs which provide important rehabilitative services to the young people… were unfortunately defunded by the County.”

The Coalition of Probation Unions has developed a 3-point plan to help solve the problems they have been facing, while strengthening and modernizing the Probation Department. The first part of their plan is to address safety. Staff members are constantly attacked by youth at community-based facilities and LA County probation facilities. “In the last three weeks alone, we have had multiple probation staff transferred to the hospital after being attacked by youth,” said Hans Liang, President of AFSCME Local 685. Understaffing is the main reason why there has been an increase in attacks. Making sure the Department is fully staffed is the first step in addressing safety. “If you don’t have safety in the facilities, you can’t even begin engaging in programming, interventions, etc., and we are not only talking about safety for staff, but safety for these youth in the facilities is important as well,” said Liang.

The second issue the plan addresses is the probation facilities. LA County probation facilities are old, poorly designed, and present a prison-like setting for youth. LA County officials have been advocating for trauma informed care and probation officers want funding, so their facilities reflect these ideals. The Coalition has requested $1 billion in funding from the state of California for the construction of three new state-of-the-art facilities.

The final concern the plan addresses is training. The Coalition is seeking funding to create a regional training center for the Probation Department. “We believe that training is paramount in terms of being able to continue and evolve our department and to be able to be up to speed with the cutting edge, evidence-based practices that the research has shown has worked,” said Liang. AFSCME Local 685 has launched their own online training program to enhance the work of its members.

The Coalition of Probation Unions is committed to the sustained well-being of the probationers served, their families, and the community. Their 3-point plan will ensure that the community and staff are safe, and it will ensure that the Probation Department continues to provide the best services to their probationers.