Sentencing Project provides guidance on diversion for juveniles

The Sentencing Project has released four issue briefs providing detailed guidance for advocates and system leaders interested in expanding and improving the use of diversion as an alternative to arrest or formal prosecution in juvenile court.  

Research shows that youth who are diverted from the justice system are far less likely to be arrested for subsequent offenses and far more likely to succeed in education and employment than comparable youth who are arrested and prosecuted in juvenile court. Greater and more targeted use of diversion has also shown promise to reduce the persistent racial and ethnic disparities that pervade youth justice systems.

The four new issue briefs offer critical lessons and highlight innovative efforts by state and local justice systems to address four critical challenges:

- How to Reduce Racial and Ethnic Disparities in Juvenile Diversion suggests practical steps that advocates, system leaders, and, in some cases, legislators can take to address disparities in diversion, including many examples where these suggested reforms are being implemented effectively.

- Best Practices for Juvenile Diversion highlights the importance of empowering community organizations unaffiliated with the courts to oversee the cases of diverted youth; the need to avoid “net-widening” by ensuring that only youth who would otherwise be arrested and prosecuted in court get placed into diversion programs; and the benefits of employing restorative justice in diversion, allowing youth to repair the harm caused by their delinquent conduct without entering the justice system.

- Using Data to Enhance Equity and Improve Outcomes in Diversion highlights the importance of rigorous data collection and analysis to address disparities and improve outcomes in diversion.

- Effective Messaging to Promote Juvenile Diversion Reform describes effective language to describe youth diversion and promote diversion reforms, how to target these messages to diverse audiences, and the importance of story-telling in building support for diversion.

The four issue briefs expand upon the findings of The Sentencing Project’s recent report, “Protect and Redirect: America’s Growing Movement to Divert Youth Out of the Justice System,” which described reforms that have been implemented in 23 states and eight localities to enhance youth diversion policies and practices.

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