All Court-committed youth are supervised by a probation officer while in placement. The supervising officer is responsible for release planning and supervision during home passes. All youth in placement are visited by their probation officer at regular intervals. Once released from placement, the probation officer will continue supervision and assist with providing any services deemed appropriate for the juvenile's successful integration back into the community.
Drug and Alcohol Specialists
A unit of three probation officers supervise caseloads comprised solely of those offenders identified as having serious drug and alcohol dependency issues. These officers also perform drug and alcohol evaluations for the Court. Urinalysis testing for the presence of drugs and alcohol is a tool used not only by the officers of this unit, but by all probation officers.
Intake is generally the first point of contact in the Juvenile Probation Office. Misdemeanor and/or Felony level offenses are filed by local police jurisdictions, and then reviewed and approved by the Berks County District Attorney’s Office. The police referrals are then processed within the Juvenile Probation Office, and assigned to an Intake Officer.
The Intake Officer is then responsible for scheduling an Intake Interview. The parent/guardian of the juvenile will be asked to bring their child to the Juvenile Probation Office. At the initial interview, the process begins with reviewing general demographic information. The juvenile’s rights are then reviewed and a statement of admission or denial is then taken. If the juvenile is admitting some or all of the charges, the intake process continues. If there is a denial, the matter is listed for Court and should the juvenile be found involved in charges, an Intake Interview would then be completed following the court proceeding.
At this point the Intake Officer obtains a social history beginning with general family background information. Questions are then asked relative to schooling, employment and extra-curricular activities. A portion of the conversation is devoted to mental health or social service agency involvement. The Intake Officer then discusses drug and alcohol involvement; this also includes the performance of a urinalysis which is performed on site. The results are obtained within minutes and are reviewed with the juvenile and his or her parent/guardian.
All of this information is then used to determine the best course of action. If appropriate, the case will be handled without a formal Court proceeding. Many cases are scheduled for a formal Court proceeding based on the nature of the charges, the juvenile's history with the Juvenile Probation Office, and/or the juvenile's overall behavior. In all of these cases, a Probation Officer is assigned and supervision commences.
All probation officers supervising a caseload are expected to perform non-traditional hours each month. Non-traditional hours are defined as hours outside the Monday through Friday 8am-5pm normal operating hours of the probation office. The purpose of non-traditional hours are to monitor the behavior of juveniles in their community, strengthen communication between the probation officer and the juvenile's parents, and to ensure compliance with curfew and other conditions of probation.ll probation officers supervising a caseload are expected to perform non-traditional hours each month. Non-traditional hours are defined as hours outside the Monday through Friday 8am-5pm normal operating hours of the probation office. The purpose of non-traditional hours are to monitor the behavior of juveniles in their community, strengthen communication between the probation officer and the juvenile's parents, and to ensure compliance with curfew and other conditions of probation.
Beginning in February of 2003, both Juvenile and Adult Probation officers began working evening shifts, along with the County Sheriff’s Department and City of Reading law enforcement officials, in a collaborative effort to target a designated Weed and Seed area in the City of Reading. Modeled after a program developed in Boston, law enforcement officers accompany probation officers to probationer's homes in the evening to monitor compliance. The program has been effective in holding offenders more accountable, increasing visibility in the community, and networking with law enforcement agencies. Currently, the program has expanded to various communities throughout Berks County.
The goal of the Berks County Operation Night Light initiative is to reduce recidivism among offenders by making probation supervision more meaningful for groups most at risk for re-offending and violating the terms and conditions of their probation or parole. By constant and unexpected monitoring of individuals on supervision during non-traditional hours, probation officers can more effectively intervene in their client’s lives. Contacts, at residences and on the streets, will allow probation officers to learn more about their clients and what support services they need to avoid further criminal behavior. By using the power of the Courts and the threat of incarceration, probation officers can ensure clients are following the rules of supervision. By advising them of the ramifications of their life choices, probation officers can help redirect their lives in a positive direction.
Probation Officers have also offered assistance with various special projects throughout Berks County such as: high school football games, National Night Out, Governor Mifflin Community Days, and Exeter May Day.
Probation officers are assigned to the Reading Senior and Reading Intermediate High Schools. In addition, the Muhlenberg obation officers are assigned to the Reading Senior and Reading Intermediate High Schools. In addition, the Muhlenberg High School has one full-time officer stationed at their school. These officers spend approximately 80% of their workweek at the high schools. The goals of this unit are to improve school attendance, academic performance and decrease disciplinary referrals.
School-Based Probation Service
Specialized Probation Services
This unit consists of two probation officers who are trained specifically to supervise offenders with problem sexual behavior. Particular emphasis is placed on monitoring offender behavior in the home and the community, socialization skills, victim empathy, and satisfactory participation in treatment.
Special Supervision Unit
The Special Supervision Unit is designed to supervise moderate to high risk juvenile offenders who, through assessment, have been identified as either members of a gang or at risk for joining a gang. The S.S.U. utilizes a comprehensive supervision model which includes: suppression of gang related behaviors, prevention for those at risk of joining a gang and intervention for those involved in the gang lifestyle.
Victim Witness Coordinators
In an effort to better serve the victims of crimes committed in Berks County, Probation Officer Kathy Spotts has been assigned solely to work with victims. She will help by answering questions, calculating financial damages, or simply being available in a victim's time of need. Kathy may be contacted at (610) 478-3200 between the hours of 8:00am and 4:30pm Monday through Friday.