Report: Expand Law Enforcement’s Role in Pre-Arrest Diversion of Youth
Diverting youth early in the juvenile justice process, such as at the initial point of contact with law enforcement, is better at reducing recidivism than formal court processing, according to new research by R Street Institute. The Institute assessed juvenile arrest rates and diversion efforts in all 50 states and developed a state-by-state overview and comparison.
The research, funded by the Annie E. Casey Foundation, looked at pre-arrest diversion led by law enforcement, which is also known as deflection. It is one of many diversion models that hold youth accountable for their behavior outside of the traditional justice system.
The researchers found that youth who were diverted by police with a warning, civil citation or referral to a community-based option, such as a restorative justice program, were more likely to be successful in completing school and enrolling in college than youth who were arrested. Further, youth avoided the trauma and stigma of juvenile proceedings and the burden of delinquency records that impede future educational and employment opportunities.
Despite these benefits, deflection remains underused, according to R Street Institute, as evidenced by the fact that most of the youth referred to juvenile court and confinement continue to be those who have committed minor offenses.
The state-by-state overview of deflection efforts is a starting point for collecting and sharing reliable and accurate data on juvenile diversion programs led by law enforcement. Its audience is police, prosecutors, municipal and county managers and elected officials, advocates and others working in juvenile and criminal justice. Data includes the existence of state statutes or state support for deflection and the presence of formal deflection programs in the largest city of each state.
“Over the past few decades, juvenile crime, arrests and confinement have begun to decline — a trend that directly correlates with states and localities moving away from overly punitive, “tough on crime” policies and toward diversion initiatives aimed at limiting young people’s interaction with the justice system,” wrote Jillian Snider, R Street Institute’s policy director for Criminal Justice and Civil Liberties, in the overview to the 50-state scan of pre-arrest diversion led by law enforcement.
R Street Institute also released How Juvenile Justice “Deflection” Programs Reduce Crime and Save Money to explore the value of deflection programs; review the public safety and fiscal benefits they offer; and highlight a case from one jurisdiction — Duval County, Florida — that underscores the benefits of the approach. To continue building buy-in for this promising approach, R Street then presented a webinar on deflection, featuring representatives from two jurisdictions with law enforcement-led deflection programs for youth as well as Jaquita Monroe, a senior associate at the Foundation.
“Young people need ways to take responsibility for their mistakes and learn from them without getting derailed from their successful transition to adulthood,” says Monroe about pre-arrest diversion. “We hope many more jurisdictions put deflection programs in place to provide that opportunity for youth.”