The Diversion Network

Holding Kids Accountable in THEir Communities, Not Court

Most teenagers engage in behaviors that could be considered criminal, yet most do not become justice involved. Those who do come in contact with the justice system are disproportionately poor, youth of color, child-welfare involved, LGBTQ, or have behavioral or mental health needs.

In Massachusetts, 85% of youth arraigned in court are accused of low-level, nonviolent crimes, and over half of teens in detention only have a misdemeanor as their most serious offense, such as petty theft, trespassing, or shoplifting. By formally processing and confining these youth in court, Massachusetts significantly increases these teens' risk of dropping out of high school (up to eight fold), while also saddling them with a court record that will follow them into adulthood. Research has shown that court processing has negative overall public safety and youth outcomes, particularly when compared to diversion, and comes at a much higher cost: taxpayers in Massachusetts currently spend over $50 million a year confining youth with low-level offenses.

Citizens for Juvenile Justice recently launched the Diversion Network with the goal of bringing together community input, local data, and research to create a vision for a cohesive, pre-arraignment system to keep youth out of court by holding them accountable in their communities. In addition to seeking input from community members and youth who have been impacted by the juvenile justice system, the Network will support these individuals to advocate for expanded and more equitable access to alternatives to court.