Increase Successful Diversion for Youth of Color

Posted November 14, 2022
By the Annie E. Casey Foundation
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Youth of color are substantially more likely to be arrested than non-Hispanic white youth with similar case histories. Following arrest, youth of color are also more likely to face formal charges in court while their white peers are far more likely to be diverted and have their cases handled informally — outside of court.

The Push to Transform Juvenile Probation

This publication — part of the Annie E. Casey Foundation’s work to transform juvenile probation — builds on research that says U.S. juvenile courts divert too few youth from formal processing. This outcome exists despite evidence indicating that informal processing improves public safety outcomes and helps young people realize greater employment and academic success.

The document also calls for bolstering opportunities for Black youth, in particular, to be successfully diverted from the juvenile justice system. Additional key points include:

  1. Vast disparities exist at the initial point of contact with the justice system. Black youth and other youth of color are arrested and referred to juvenile courts for delinquency at far higher rates than white youth despite similar rates of law-breaking behavior.
  2. After being referred to court for delinquency, Black youth are far less likely to be offered diversion when compared to their white non-Hispanic peers. And, while the inequity gap isn’t as large, diversion is also less likely for youth who identify as Native American, Hispanic and Asian or Pacific Islander when compared to their white non-Hispanic peers.
  3. Disparities in diversion have been linked to eligibility and participation requirements and other seemingly objective decision-making criteria that place youth of color at a distinct disadvantage.
  4. A lack of diversion opportunities offered to youth of color plays a central role in perpetuating and exacerbating unequal outcomes in later stages of the justice process.

Related Reading

Expand the Use of Diversion From the Juvenile Justice System

Eliminate Confinement as a Response to Probation Rule Violations

Findings & Stats

Statements & Quotations

Key Takeaway

White youth have — for years — been more likely than their Black peers to be diverted from court processing

In 2019, 52% of white non-Hispanic youth referred to delinquency courts had their cases diverted. This same scenario occurred just 40% of the time for Black youth. Despite a federal mandate to address racial and ethnic disparities in juvenile justice and a stated commitment to do so in systems across the nation, the gap in the share of Black and white youth diverted from court hasn’t just persisted — it’s grown over time.