Juvenile Diversion Guidebook

Programs that divert youth from involvement in the juvenile justice system have become more frequent in response to the growing recognition that such involvement often is not necessary to achieve society’s goals. The concept of diversion was first adopted by the adult criminal justice system, and in the 1960s, became a topic of discussion in the juvenile justice system. In 1967, the President’s Commission on Law Enforcement and Administration of Justice recommended exploring alternatives for addressing the needs of troubled youth outside of the justice system. In 1976, the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention’s Special Emphasis Branch provided $10 million in funding for the development of diversion programs. These efforts were driven by the belief that diversion programs might yield many benefits, such as: 1) decreased rates of recidivism; 2) less crowded detention facilities; 3) allowing youth the option to choose an alternative to processing; 4) providing more appropriate treatments at the community level; 5) reducing the stigma associated with formal juvenile justice system involvement; and 6) increasing family participation.

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