Juvenile Diversion Guidebook

At one time or another, almost all adolescents engage in risky behaviors, act without thinking, and make bad decisions more often than they will as adults; thus, many may engage in what would be judged as illegal behavior.1 Most youth are not apprehended every time they do so, but arrest is a common experience among adolescents, especially for youth of color in urban areas. Yet only a minority of those youth will ever be arrested for a second delinquent act, or will become repeat offenders in adulthood.2 In other words, for the majority of youth who are arrested, their first delinquency is not a sign of a future delinquency problem.

Given these facts, a strong argument can be made for having a way to avoid formal processing of youth through the juvenile justice system under certain conditions. Without  such a mechanism, large numbers of youth are unnecessarily charged and processed through the system, thus increasing a youth’s probability of further delinquencies due to their exposure to other delinquent youth during this process. Moreover, by formally processing these youth, resources available to the juvenile justice system are used in ways that weaken the system’s capacity to process and respond to the minority of youth who actually present a risk to public safety and need juvenile justice adjudication and rehabilitation.

Over 2 million  youth in the U.S. under the age of 18 are arrested each year.3  Over 600,000 youth are placed in detention centers annually, and approximately 95,000 reside in secure juvenile correctional settings on any given day.4 Many of these youth become involved with the juvenile justice system for relatively minor and nonviolent offenses. Often a lack of appropriate community-based treatments and services to address their specific needs plays a role in their admission to juvenile justice programs. As a result, many youth become unnecessarily enmeshed in the juvenile justice

(From Models For Change)

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