Expand the Use of Diversion From the Juvenile Justice System

By the Annie E. Casey Foundation

August 4, 2020


This brief presents the research case for significantly expanding the use of diversion in the juvenile justice system. The alternative — arresting young people and formally processing their cases in juvenile court — increases their likelihood of subsequent arrests, school struggles and employment challenges.  

Juvenile court processing is especially detrimental for youth who are not at high risk of rearrest. Nonetheless, a significant share of cases formally processed in U.S. juvenile courts still involve youth who are assessed as low risk and have little or no prior record of delinquency.

The guidance in this brief is consistent with Casey’s Transforming Juvenile Probation report.

Table of Contents

Key Takeaway

For youth, one arrest can spark a chain of negative outcomes

The latest research is clear: Being arrested in adolescence significantly increases an individual’s chance of being arrested again. This link persists even after controlling for a wide variety of personal characteristics and self-reported delinquent conduct.

Findings & Stats

Statements & Quotations