Evaluation of the Impact of a Policy Change in a Diversion Program on Youth Recidivism: A Natural Experiment

Richard Dembo, University of South Florida
Jennifer Wareham, University of South Florida
James Schmeidler, Mount Sinai Medical School

In July 2000, the Florida legislature eliminated funds for a diversion program (the Juvenile Alternative Services Program [JASP]) for arrested youths in Hillsborough County as well as most other counties in the state. Other programs were expanded or created to serve youths formerly eligible for JASP services. Two of the four JASP replacement programs involved penetration into the juvenile justice system. As part of an OJJDP funded evaluation, we plan to report on the impact of this policy change on youths' JASP and alternative to JASP completion rates and their recidivism. We plan to report on analyses examining: (1) the relationship between the youths' demographic characteristics, educational and offense history and their rates of involvement in the JASP and alternative to JASP programs (i.e., no shows, dropouts/withdrawals and completers) and (2) whether: (a) the diversion programs differ in their recidivism, (b) categories of program involvement differ in their recidivism, and (c) the JASP and JASP replacement programs differ in their recidivism for various categories of involvement. Conclusions are drawn with reference to the possible "net widening" effect of this policy change.

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Updated 05/20/2006