Diversion: The Next Frontier in Reforming Youth Justice

Get the facts on the benefits of diverting youth from the juvenile justice system and tools to implement diversion programs in your state.

After decades of neglect, the youth justice field is awakening to the importance of diversion in lieu of arrest and formal court processing for most youth accused of delinquent behavior.

All over the country, jurisdictions are taking concerted action to address more cases of alleged lawbreaking behavior outside the formal justice system. This momentum to make diversion a centerpiece of juvenile justice reform is encouraging given powerful research showing that youth who are diverted from the justice system are far less likely to be arrested for subsequent offenses and far more likely to succeed in education and employment than comparable youth who are arrested and prosecuted in juvenile court. Greater use of diversion is also essential to reduce the persistent racial and ethnic disparities that pervade youth justice systems.

Below you will find resources documenting the many benefits of diverting young people away from the justice system, along with policy briefs that provide practical tools for criminal legal practitioners, youth justice lawmakers, and advocates to implement successful diversion programs.


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

This report documents the now-overwhelming evidence showing that formal involvement in the justice system undermines rather than enhances public safety.

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Protect and Redirect

America’s Growing Movement to Divert Youth Out of the Justice System

This report documents noteworthy progress across the country to expand and improve the use of diversion and address problematic practices that perpetuate racial and ethnic disparities in diversion.

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Protect and Redirect

Recommendations for Expanding and Improving Diversion

Protect and Redirect Issue Briefs offer deeper analysis and practical steps for advocates and system leaders on: addressing disparities in diversion; employing best practices in diversion; using data to better target and improve outcomes in diversion; and messaging effectively to promote diversion reforms.

  • Issue Brief #1

    How to Reduce Racial and Ethnic Disparities in Juvenile Diversion

  • Issue Brief #2

    Best Practices for Juvenile Diversion

  • Issue Brief #3

    Measuring Equity and Results in Juvenile Diversion

  • Issue Brief #4

    Effective Messaging to Promote Juvenile Diversion Reform


23 states

Nearly half the states across the country have taken noteworthy steps to expand and improve the use of diversion as an alternative to arrest or formal prosecution in juvenile court.

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Research finds that youth diverted from the justice system have far lower likelihood for subsequent arrests, are less likely to be incarcerated, commit less violence, have higher rates of school completion and college enrollment, and earn higher incomes in adulthood.

Richard Mendel
Senior Research Fellow