Rethinking the Role of Diversion in Juvenile Justice

David L. Parry, Endicott College

Mechanisms for diverting young first-time offenders away from formal court processing have occupied a prominent place in the juvenile justice system at least since the President's Commission on Law Enforcement and the Administration of Justice published its Task Force Report on Juvenile Delinquency and Youth Crime. Originally intended as a means to avoid the stigma of delinquency adjudication while affording access to community-based services for minor offenders, diversion programs have since been criticized for their asserted tendency to widen the net of social control and for what some have perceived as an increasingly punitive bent. This paper explores the range of contemporary approaches to juvenile diversion and assesses the continued vitality of the diversion concept. Variations in the structure of extant programs, eligibility requirements, the process of diversion decision making and modal intervention strategies are highlighted.

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Updated 05/20/2006