Video Explains Community-led Youth Diversion From the Legal System

Posted June 20, 2023
By the Annie E. Casey Foundation
The image is a cartoon-like graphic of a young woman standing in front of a white board, presenting to a small, diverse group of her peers. On the board behind her are the phrases: “Holding Young People Accountable”; “Meet Underlying Needs”; and “Build Strengths.”

A short video pro­duced by the Annie E. Casey Foun­da­tion describes a mod­el for com­mu­ni­ty-led diver­sion and devel­op­ment for youth who might oth­er­wise face jus­tice sys­tem involve­ment. It fea­tures Los Ange­les Coun­ty and its use of youth diver­sion pro­gram­ming by local ser­vice providers to hold young peo­ple account­able for their actions. Based on cur­rent Cal­i­for­nia law, approx­i­mate­ly 80% of youth arrests are eli­gi­ble for diversion.

Los Ange­les Coun­ty is sig­nif­i­cant­ly expand­ing the use of diver­sion from the juve­nile jus­tice sys­tem because the alter­na­tive — arrest­ing young peo­ple and for­mal­ly pro­cess­ing their cas­es in juve­nile court — increas­es the like­li­hood of sub­se­quent arrests, school strug­gles and employ­ment chal­lenges. Juve­nile court pro­cess­ing is espe­cial­ly detri­men­tal for youth who are assessed as low risk of reof­fend­ing and have lit­tle or no pri­or record of delinquency.

While the three-minute video sim­pli­fies the sto­ry, it acknowl­edges the role that com­mu­ni­ty out­rage about the over-use of crim­i­nal pun­ish­ment, espe­cial­ly for Black and Lati­no kids, played as a cat­a­lyst for more alter­na­tives to arrest or cita­tion. It pro­pelled com­mu­ni­ty mem­bers, young peo­ple, elect­ed offi­cials and prac­ti­tion­ers to exam­ine why so many young peo­ple were land­ing in the juve­nile sys­tem in the first place. Col­lec­tive­ly, these stake­hold­ers worked to deter­mine how to sys­tem­at­i­cal­ly steer more eli­gi­ble youth in Los Ange­les Coun­ty away from the legal sys­tem at the point of arrest and into com­mu­ni­ty-based ser­vices in lieu of for­mal court pro­cess­ing. In doing so, they pri­or­i­tized input from young peo­ple affect­ed by jus­tice sys­tem involvement.

The young peo­ple and oth­er com­mu­ni­ty stake­hold­ers and the pub­lic sec­tor had shared objec­tives: no unnec­es­sary arrest, no unnec­es­sary pros­e­cu­tion, just account­abil­i­ty and effec­tive sup­port for young peo­ple,” says Jaqui­ta Mon­roe, senior asso­ciate with the Foun­da­tion and the video’s narrator. 

Watch the video to learn more about the:

  • coun­ty­wide net­work of com­mu­ni­ty-based ser­vice providers and array of devel­op­men­tal­ly appro­pri­ate ser­vices, such as ther­a­py, home­work help, arts and sports;
  • inclu­sion of restora­tive jus­tice, which guides youth to do right by the peo­ple they’ve harmed;
  • abil­i­ty to base ser­vices and sup­port on a youth’s unique needs and strengths;
  • pre-arrest diver­sion options avail­able to law enforce­ment offi­cers when they encounter young people;
  • agree­ments among the ser­vice providers, law enforce­ment agen­cies, dis­trict attorney’s office and pro­ba­tion depart­ment; and
  • role of the Depart­ment of Youth Devel­op­ment in pro­vid­ing struc­ture and over­sight as well as in mak­ing com­mu­ni­ty investments.

This short video expos­es view­ers to com­mu­ni­ty-led youth diver­sion and devel­op­ment,” Mon­roe says. It demon­strates what’s pos­si­ble when a young per­son gets con­nect­ed to car­ing adults and oppor­tu­ni­ties rather than poten­tial­ly derailed by an arrest and jus­tice sys­tem involvement.”

Addi­tion­al Resources on Juve­nile Diversion

Report: Expand the Use of Diver­sion From the Juve­nile Jus­tice System

Report: Increase Suc­cess­ful Diver­sion for Youth of Color

Report: Diver­sion: A Hid­den Key to Com­bat­ing Racial and Eth­nic Dis­par­i­ties in Juve­nile Justice

Popular Posts

View all blog posts   |   Browse Topics

Youth with curly hair in pink shirt

blog   |   June 3, 2021

Defining LGBTQ Terms and Concepts

A mother and her child are standing outdoors, each with one arm wrapped around the other. They are looking at each other and smiling. The child has a basketball in hand.

blog   |   August 1, 2022

Child Well-Being in Single-Parent Families