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ERIC Number: EJ1179190
Record Type: Journal
Publication Date: 2018
Pages: 23
Abstractor: As Provided
ISSN: ISSN-1054-8289
Decriminalizing Racialized Youth through Juvenile Diversion
Schlesinger, Traci
Future of Children, v28 n1 p59-81 Spr 2018
In the context of juvenile justice, writes Traci Schlesinger, "diversion" can mean two things. Informal diversion includes police officers' decisions to warn and release, probation officers' decisions not to report violations, prosecutors' decisions not to prosecute, and judges' decisions to dismiss cases. Informal diversion sends youth out of the system, lets them remain at home, and asks nothing further of them. "Formal" diversion includes decisions by intake workers--including police, school resource officers, probation officers, and sometimes prosecutors or judges--to move cases away from formal court processing to programs that provide services but also include requirements. Because diversion can keep young people from deeper involvement with the juvenile justice system, it has the potential to ameliorate the processes through which racialized youth become criminalized at much higher rates than legally similar white youth. The research evidence, Schlesinger writes, offers clear suggestions in three areas: which youth should be diverted, which officials make good gatekeepers for diversion programs, and which implementation principles are most important. Her key recommendation is that jurisdictions should use informal diversion to decriminalize low-risk youth and formal diversion to keep high-risk youth away from court processing and in their communities. Schlesinger notes several challenges to making diversion policies successful. For one, she writes, jurisdictions must use risk assessments that don't replicate or exacerbate racial disparities. In addition, she says, formal diversion works best when youth can access services in the communities where they live, rather than in the justice system. This condition is becoming more difficult to achieve as cities and states have increasingly chosen to spend their limited funds on facilities within punitive systems rather than within communities, for example, by closing communit-ybased mental health centers and then opening new facilities in a local jail. Finally, jurisdictions must ensure that diversion programs are properly implemented and that the youth who begin diversion programs actually complete them.
Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs at Princeton University and The Brookings Institution. 267 Wallace Hall, Princeton University, Princeton, NJ 08544. Tel: 609-258-6979; e-mail:; Web site:
Publication Type: Journal Articles; Reports - Descriptive
Education Level: N/A
Audience: N/A
Language: English
Sponsor: N/A
Authoring Institution: N/A
Grant or Contract Numbers: N/A