Home > Police-initiated diversion for youth to prevent future delinquent behavior: a systematic review.

Wilson, David B and Gill, Charlotte and Higginson, Angela (2018) Police-initiated diversion for youth to prevent future delinquent behavior: a systematic review. Campbell Systematic Reviews, 5, DOI: https://doi.org/10.4073/csr.2018.5.

External website: https://www.campbellcollaboration.org/library/poli...

Youth misconduct and misbehavior is a normal part of adolescence and that misbehavior sometimes crosses the line from disruptive or problematic to delinquent. Nationally representative surveys of youth in the USA have indicated that minor delinquent behavior is normative, particularly for boys. The normative nature of minor delinquent behavior raises the question of how police should respond to minor delinquent behavior in a way that is corrective, but also avoids involving the youth in the criminal justice system beyond what will be effective in reducing future misbehavior.

Police diversion schemes are a collection of strategies police can apply as an alternative to court processing of youth. Diversion as an option is popular among law enforcement officers, as it provides an option between ignoring youth engaged in minor wrongdoing and formally charging such youth with a crime. Police-led diversion has the potential to reduce reoffending by limiting the exposure of low-risk youth to potentially harmful effects of engagement with the criminal justice system. This review examined whether police-led diversion and traditional processing of youth have different effects on rates of official delinquency.

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. Many of the studies included in the review were conducted in the 1970s and 1980s. Newer high quality studies are needed to ensure that the findings still hold for contemporary juvenile justice contexts. Additional studies are also needed outside of the USA for this same reason. Finally, we recommend that research explore the usefulness of diversion for low-risk adult offenders.

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