Identifying Existing Structural Barriers to Accessing Probation Services
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Fountain, Erika and Dillon Mahmoudi. 2021. “Mapping Juvenile Justice: Identifying Existing Structural Barriers to Accessing Probation Services.” American Journal of Community Psychology 67 (1-2): 116-129. doi:10.1002/ajcp.12474
This paper was part of a special issue in the American Journal of Community Psychology which explicitly sought to engage in interdisciplinary approaches to community psychology. Our paper incorporates insights from human geography and GIS to identify the landscape of mobility for justice-involved youth in Baltimore. We argue that practitioners and lawmakers need to think spatially about uneven development to reduce the number of justice-involved youth that end up in prison because they could not get to court-mandated Department of Juvenile Services locations.
The majority of justice-involved youth are placed on probation; however, many of those same youth struggle to comply with probation requirements and are subsequently confined. In Baltimore, a full 20% of newly committed youth were detained for violations of probation. While there are various reasons youth fail to comply with probation requirements, there have been recent calls to consider the impact of structural and spatial barriers to accessing probation programs and services. In this study, we take a novel, interdisciplinary approach to identifying structural or spatial barriers facing justice-involved youth in Baltimore, MD. Specifically, we explore transportation barriers (i.e., vehicle access) and spatial disparities between youth residences and probation office locations. Our findings suggest that there are several barriers facing Baltimore’s justice-involved youth that may impact access to and engagement with juvenile probation. Specifically, we found that 1 in 3 youths reside in areas with extremely low levels of vehicle access and where the median household income is 25% below the city median. We also find that the majority of youth live beyond walking distances; many would require lengthy transit commutes. These findings highlight the structural and spatial barriers facing justice-involved youth that may impact access to and engagement with probation services.
Our findings indicate there are various spatial and structural barriers that justice-involved youth in Baltimore City face. First, a majority of youth live in areas marked by concentrated poverty and where many residents do not have access to a vehicle. About a third of the youth sampled live in areas marked by the most disadvantage; these youth live in areas where the median household income falls 30% below the Baltimore City median household income, and where between 30 and 70% of workers do not have access to a vehicle. Furthermore, almost all of these youth live beyond walking distance from DJS probation locations, effectively requiring them to use public transit or costly alternatives to attend regular meetings with their probation officer.