Diversion, in its truest sense, refers to non-court interventions that “divert” youth from formal processing within juvenile delinquency system. To truly be “diverted,” these interventions should occur before a petition is filed against the child. In many jurisdictions, however, the term diversion has been expanded to refer to a broad range of programs that direct youth out of the system, whatever the stage of the case. Some jurisdictions have diversion processes that are governed by more formal rules and better defined service outcomes than others. Unfortunately, defenders are often not appointed prior to, or at the time of, a child’s participation in diversion programs, which means the child has no legal counsel when making decisions about whether to participate in certain programs and what the consequences of failing in a diversion program may be. In the event that defenders are able to advise clients about diversion programs or help to negotiated the terms of diversion, defenders should familiarize themselves with the criteria for eligibility and consequences of unsuccessful participation.
For more information on the variety of diversion programs in place across the country, please see the Models for Change Diversion Guidebook
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