Juvenile diversion programs

Program basics

  • Divert juvenile offenders from the formal justice system, with focus on reducing recidivism and further problem behavior while realizing cost and resource savings
  • Built on the premise that avoiding delinquent labeling and exposure to antisocial peers and the juvenile justice system can help reduce risk of further infractions
  • Varies in intensity, with some models consisting of simple warnings and others requiring participation in designated programming
  • Types of diversion programs include restorative justice, community service, treatment or skills-building programs, family treatment, drug courts, and youth courts

Strength of evidence

Evidence level: Strong (second-highest tier)


Strong (second-highest tier)

Ranked as having the second-highest level of evidence by the National Institute of Justice

Target population

Opportunity Youth

Program cost

Not available

Implementation locations

  • Nationwide

Dates active


Outcomes and impact

  • Reduction in recidivism rates

Keys to successful implementation

  • Evaluate a range of diversion programs, such as restorative justice, community service, and skillbuilding or treatment, before selecting the ones that will most likely achieve predetermined goals.
  • Start recruitment (and in turn, diversion from the formal justice system) before the initiation of formal court procedures; various models have had success at different contact points, including both pre- and post-charging.
  • Consider applying certain conditions to program participation, including an admission of guilt and voluntary entry into the intervention.
  • Partner with law enforcement, social service agencies, schools, and other community groups to identify youth who would most benefit from the program services.

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