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Wayne County Intensive Probation Program

Ages 12-17

Rating: Level 3


The Wayne County Intensive Probation Program (IPP) in Detroit, Mich., is administered by the juvenile court and operated by the court probation department and two private, nonprofit agencies under contract with the court. The IPP target population is adjudicated delinquents ages 12 to 17 who have been committed to the State Department of Social Services. Youth referred to IPP are placed in one of three programs for services and supervision: 1) the Intensive Probation Unit (IPU), the In-Home Care Program (IHC), or the State Ward Diversion (SWD). The last two programs are operated by private agencies.

The IPU program uses the traditional intensive supervision model. It is characterized by low caseloads (a maximum of 10 youths per probation officer) and frequent probation officer contacts and surveillance activities. It operates through a system of four phases, with diminishing levels of supervision as the juvenile demonstrates more appropriate behavior. Probation officers must have two to three weekly face-to-face contacts with youths during the first phase and at least one face-to-face contact per week during the subsequent phases. In addition, telephone contacts to check school attendance, curfew adherence, and home behavior are made regularly. Youths remain in the program for 7 to 11 months.

The two private programs have different approaches. The IHC employs a family-oriented services and treatment approach based on the philosophy that comprehensive family treatment using community resources is needed to alleviate the causes of delinquent behavior. It provides comprehensive services, including supervision; individual, family, and group counseling; educational planning; recreational activities; and comprehensive employment training and placement activities. The maximum caseload ratio is one family worker to every eight juveniles. Family counselors meet with the juveniles and their families three to five times a week during the early stages of the program and a minimum of once a week as youths demonstrate progress in the program. The length of the program is 9 to 12 months.

The SWD is a day treatment program actively involved in several key areas of a youth’s life: home, family, school, employment, and community. An onsite alternative education program offers classes every weekday for 5 hours, 12 months per year. In addition, the program provides ongoing individual and group counseling, youth information groups, group parenting sessions, psychological evaluations, preemployment preparation for older youth, family outings, and structured group activities. Finally, the probation counselor not only sees the youth onsite every weekday but also meets with the youth and parents at least once a week. Program enrollment is for a minimum of 11 months and generally does not exceed 15 months.


The IPP was evaluated using a randomized control group design. The experimental group (n=326) consisted of youths assigned to any one of the three intensive supervision probation programs. The control group (n=185) consisted of youths placed in a State institution. The sample was 100 percent male, 69 percent African-American, and 67 percent from single-parent households. The average age was 15.4 years. After youths were randomly assigned to either the experimental or control group, they were tracked for 2 years. Data was collected through court and program records and through several interviews with youths, parents, and program staff.


The evaluation found that the overall performances of the experimental and control groups were comparable. Institutionalized youths were slightly less likely to reappear in court than were intensive probation youths. However, this difference disappeared when time at risk in the community was taken into account. In addition, IPP youth committed fewer serious crimes than the institutional youths, performed better on self-report tests, and were less likely to commit violent crimes measured both by court records and self-reported data. Finally, it was concluded that IPP was as effective as incarceration at less than one third the cost. The program saved an estimated $8.8 million over 3 years.


Barton, William H., and Jeffrey A. Butts. 1990. “Viable Options: Intensive Supervision Programs for Juvenile Delinquents.” Crime and Delinquency 36(2):238–56.


Shirley Mitsunaga
Wayne County Intensive Probation Program
1025 East Forest Avenue
Detroit, MI 48207–1024
Phone: (313) 577-9426
Web site: