Juvenile courts presided over an estimated 696,620 cases in 2019. Juvenile arrests are at the lowest they have been since 1996 and most youth referred to juvenile court are suspected of non-violent offenses. But even minor involvement in the justice system can have far-reaching consequences, often impacting one’s access to education, employment and housing. Studies show involvement in the system can limit meaningful rehabilitation, expose youth to others who are more experienced with criminal behavior and reduce the likelihood that a youth will graduate from high school.
Diversion is a general term for decisions, programs or services that steer youth away from formal processing in the juvenile justice system if they fall within particular categories or are willing to comply with specific requirements. These programs generally allow a young person to complete services or activities instead of being formally charged with an offense. Diversion also includes issuing a warning and releasing the youth without additional intervention.
Did You Know?
- Diversion includes decisions, programs, or services to, under certain circumstances, steer youth away from formal processing in the juvenile justice system.
- The decision to use diversion instead of judicial proceedings can be made by law enforcement officers, educators, prosecutors, judges, or other court staff, depending on the jurisdiction.
- It costs an average of $588 per day to incarcerate a young person; alternatives like diversion can cost approximately $75 a day.