Police-initiated diversion for youth to prevent future delinquent behavior by David B. Wilson, Iain Brennan, Ajima Olaghere
Overly punitive responses to youth misconduct may have the unintended consequence of increasing the likelihood of future delinquency; yet, overly lenient responses may fail to serve as a corrective for the misbehavior. Police diversion schemes are a collection of strategies police can apply as an alternative to court processing of youth. Police-initiated diversion schemes aim to reduce reoffending by steering youth away from deeper penetration into the criminal justice system and by providing an alternative intervention that can help youth address psychosocial development or other needs that contribute to their problem behavior.
The general pattern of evidence is positive, suggesting that police-led diversion reduces the future delinquent behavior of low-risk youth relative to traditional processing. Assuming a 50 percent reoffending rate for the traditional processing condition, the results suggest a reoffending rate of roughly 44 percent for the diverted youth. This overall benefit of diversion holds for the random assignment studies judged to be free from any obvious risks of bias. The findings from this systematic review support the use of police-led diversion for low-risk youth with limited or no prior involvement with the juvenile justice system. Thus, police departments and policy-makers should consider diversionary programs as part of the mix of solutions for addressing youth crime.
What is this review about?
This Campbell systematic review examines the effects police-initiated diversion programs on delinquent behavior, compared to traditional system processing. The review summarizes evidence from nineteen high-quality studies, including 13 randomized controlled trials and six quasi-experimental studies.