Ideally, diversion should take place at the earliest stages of juvenile justice processing, to refer a youth to essential services and avert further involvement in the system. On the other hand, diversion mechanisms can be put into place at later stages of justice processing, to avoid further penetration into the system and expensive out-of-home placements. Efforts to keep youth out of the juvenile justice system who otherwise would be processed by the courts have existed since the creation of juvenile courts. "During the 1960's, increasing levels of delinquency and crime, coupled with criticisms of the juvenile justice system, led to the development of alternatives for responding to youth outside of the traditional justice system. As such, the 1970's reflected considerable growth in diversion programs, bolstered by significant federal investments in these initiatives. Rising juvenile crime rates in the 1980's and early 1990's caused the political pendulum to swing in the opposite direction, fueling fears that the country was under assault by a generation of violent youth" (Skowyra & Powell, 2006). In response, a lot of educational and rehabilitative options, including diversion programs, were discarded in favor of strict zero-tolerance policies and augmented law enforcement reply to typical adolescent.
Jail diversion refers to two kinds of initiatives which are comparable to pretrial diversion. The most normally known jail diversion programs unite arrestees and defendants with serious mental illnesses and often co-occurring substance abuse issues to community-based treatment and support services. People may be diverted either at arrest or at a variety of points throughout criminal justice processing. These programs' sequential intercept model, identifying and moving mentally ill persons to alternative programming throughout the arrest, adjudication, and judgment, parallels the pretrial diversion promising practice of offering alternatives to adjudication throughout the pretrial stage. Nevertheless, many jail diversion programs uphold regular case processing and cases move to traditional judgment and sentences based on the offense committed (Promising Practices in Pretrial Diversion, 2006).
Jail diversion also frequently describes pretrial programs that target those who can be supervised safely in the community pending trial. These pretrial supervision programs seek to reduce the short-term risk of missing scheduled court appearances and re-arrests during case processing. Since defendants under these programs continue under regular case adjudication, these are not measured true pretrial diversion. Under post-plea diversion, courts hold guilty pleas or convictions in abeyance pending a defendant's completion of community-based supervision and treatment or service programs. Pleas and convictions are vacated following successful program completion. Post-plea diversion programs incorporate supervision, service, and treatment similar to that offered under pretrial diversion (Promising Practices in Pretrial Diversion, 2006).
Strategically matching youth with needed programming requires a cross-system pledge to the objective assessment, classification, and placement of youth. Assessment and classification tools designed for this purpose necessitate buy-in from multiple stakeholders in various youth-serving agencies. New public-public and public-private partnerships need to focus on the common goal of expanding the use of alternatives to detaining or confining youth. Jurisdictions must create new relationships with program providers and other state agencies to make sure the delivery of a comprehensive continuum of care and to fill gaps in service delivery. Further, integrating new methodologies into juvenile justice decision making processes will rely on key systems change strategies, especially in the use of data and scientific research to structure those decisions (Promising Practices in Pretrial Diversion, 2006).
Every pretrial diversion program requires an understanding among itself, the prosecutor, the court, and other appropriate partners about program eligibility, requirements, and outcomes. The earliest diversion programs relied more on informal understandings of such details, but found these arrangements highly person-dependent and thus potentially subject to different interpretations by successive actors. Today, successful programs collaborate with partner agencies under formalized written agreements that provide more clarity and continuity (Promising Practices in Pretrial Diversion, 2006).
Austin, J., Johnson, K.D. & Weitzer, R. (2005). Alternatives to the Secure Detention and Confinement of Juvenile Offenders. Retrieved from https://www.ncjrs.gov/pdffiles1/ojjdp/208804.pdf
Diversion Programs: An Overview. (1999). Retrieved from https://www.ncjrs.gov/html/ojjdp/9909-3/div.html
Juvenile Diversion Guidebook. (2011). Retrieved from http://www.modelsforchange.net/publications/301
Promising Practices in Pretrial Diversion. (2006). Retrieved from http://www.pretrial.org/Docs/Documents/PromisingPracticeFinal.pdf
Skowyra, K. & Powell, S.D. (2006). Juvenile Diversion: Programs for Justice-Involved
Youth with Mental Health Disorders. Retrieved from http://www.ncmhjj.com/pdfs/publications/DiversionRPB.pdf