Reforming Youth Diversion in the District of Columbia

Since September of 2013, DC Lawyers for Youth has been working with four graduate students - Philip Tizzani, Marissa Davis, Candace Mitchell, and Diana Zarzuelo - from the Harvard Kennedy School of Government to analyze delinquency diversion programming in the District of Columbia and provide recommendations for how to improve programming and divert more of our youth from the juvenile justice system.  Over the last nine months, the students met with a variety of juvenile justice stakeholders across the District and completed substantial research into best practices around the country concerning diversion.  

The key findings of the report are:

  1. Compared with diversion, extensive justice system penetration increases the likelihood of youth to commit future crimes.
  2. For low-risk youth, financial benefits of diversion significantly exceed program costs.
  3. There is no DC-wide strategy for addressing the broad flow of youth touching the justice system.
  4. The complexity of the justice system presents challenges to government agency coordination.
  5. Focused mayoral initiatives can improve multi-agency performance around common issues affecting young people. 

The key recommendations include:

  1. Secure Fiscal Year 2015 (FY 15) funding for pre-arrest diversion models. 
  2. Support and evaluate a comprehensive diversion pilot led by the Department of Human Services.
  3. Pursue centralized mayoral strategy to reduce formal youth system involvement. 

Download: Reforming Diversion Report (updated 7.25.14)


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