How Juvenile Diversion Programs Can Cut Youth Arrests, Reduce Recidivism


Miami has “revolutionized juvenile justice management” by using “civil citations” to divert juvenile crime suspects into treatment and other programs without creating a criminal record in the juvenile justice system, says Morris Copeland, director of Miami-Dade County’s Juvenile Services Department. Copeland told the “Models of Change” juvenile justice conference this week in Washington, D.C., that juvenile arrests in Miami dropped 62 percent between 1998 and 2011 in part because of the “diversion” program, which saves about $33 million annually in justice-system costs.

Copeland said the effort has had an 82 percent success rate, meaning that most of the youths in it have not been arrested for subsequent crimes. George Mosee Jr. of the Philadelphia District Attorney’s office described a similar effort in his city, involving a “juvenile treatment court” that “gets kids off the street” while avoiding the traditional use of the juvenile justice system. “Youth aid panels” in each of the city’s 26 police districts help community members become mentors to troubled youths, he said. John Firman of the International Association of Chiefs of Police said the IACP supports setting up diversion programs in other cities and has a team of staff members available to help police departments that want to set one up. Models for Change, supported by the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, distributed a detailed Juvenile Diversion Guidebook to explain how the programs can operate.

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