Crime Solutions Rates Diversion as “Promising” Strategy

Ct. Diversion Panel Night PictureAccording to CrimeSolutions.gov, Juvenile Diversion is an intervention strategy that redirects youths away from formal processing in the juvenile justice system, while still holding them accountable for their actions. The practice is rated Promising for reducing recidivism rates of juveniles who participated in diversion programming compared with juveniles who were formally processed in the justice system.

This is great news for the New Hampshire Juvenile Court Diversion Network programs, as we work hard to establish the efficacy of our programs. While we are currently showing an 86% completion rate across all programs, efforts are underway to collect one year recidivism rates. The following excerpts are from the work of researcher Holly Wilson, from Toronto’s Ryerson University”

Practice Theory

Diversion is primarily grounded in two different theories. Labeling theory emphasizes the stigma and negative consequences that youths may experience if they are labeled delinquent at a young age (Becker 1963). Differential association theory argues that youths can learn antisocial attitudes and behaviors by associating with peers who exhibit such behavior (Cressey 1952). Diversion attempts to minimize the effects of labeling associated with offending and limit the opportunities youths have to associate with antisocial peers by reducing their contact and exposure to the juvenile justice system.

Recently, research on the negative impacts of formal system processing and empirical work on the risk/need/responsivity model also provide support for the use of diversion. Research has emerged indicating that the likelihood of reoffending actually increases as youths are further processed into the juvenile justice system, which supports the idea of diverting youths away from the system (Petrosino, Turpin–Petrosino, and Guckenburg 2010). Likewise, the risk/need/responsivity model—which, in part, emphasizes that intensive services should be reserved for high-risk juveniles—also supports the use of diversion so that limited resources can be directed to more appropriate juvenile offenders (Andrews and Bonta 2010).

Practice Components

There are generally two different types of diversion programs: caution/ warning programs and formal programs. Caution or warning programs are the least invasive. In these programs, youths are diverted out of the system with no further action, aside from a warning or formal caution, usually from the police. Alternatively, formal diversion programs usually involve some conditions youths must fulfill, including an admission of guilt and an agreement to participate in a diversion intervention. Successful completion of diversion programming will generally result in no further judicial processing (Wilson and Hoge 2012).

There are many different examples of diversion interventions, such as restorative justice programs (including victim–offender mediation or family group conferencing), community service, treatment or skills-building programs (including cognitive–behavioral therapy or employment training), family treatment, drug courts, and youth courts.

Diversion can occur at several different contact points in the juvenile justice system, but generally youths are diverted pre- or post-charging but before the initiation of formal court procedures. Precharge diversion is generally used with lower-risk youths following their contact with the police. With precharge diversion, youths are diverted from the system with no further processing by law enforcement or court services. Postcharge diversion occurs when youths have been charged with an offense by the police or prosecution. Youths must accept responsibility for their actions and agree to participate in recommended programming. If they do, there is no further judicial processing and successful completion of diversion programming may result in dismissal of charges (Wilson and Hoge 2012).

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