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Do Juveniles Benefit From Diversion Programs?

Being charged with a crime can have a lasting effect. Once you’re in the criminal justice system, you have a mark on your record that is likely to follow you forever. For juveniles, a criminal record can be especially harmful.

Virginia offers diversion programs for first-time offenders. The programs are meant to minimize the effects of criminal prosecution, and are meant to keep one mistake from defining the rest of your life. The potential benefits make these programs attractive to juveniles, but how effective are diversion programs?

A study conducted at the Thomas Jefferson Program in Public Policy at the College of William & Mary attempted to answer this question. They surveyed juvenile intake officers to get their opinions on the programs’ effectiveness.

Most respondents agreed that diversion programs can be successful with cooperation from the juvenile and the family. However, diversion programs fail most often because of a lack of cooperation. Given this, the intake officers recommended focusing on a family approach to diversion programs.

The types of diversion programs vary depending on the offense and the individual, and can include community service, anger management or rehabilitation. While the time commitment can be daunting in some cases, they offer an alternative to jail or a juvenile detention center. 

Funding is also an issue for diversion programs, according to officers. They feel programs would have a greater chance of success with more resources.

Ultimately, the study concludes that diversion programs can be a good option for juveniles. There are obstacles, but with a cooperative offender and family, diversion programs offer a good opportunity at a second chance. 

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