The Juvenile Diversion Program is an innovative national model, which works with certain first-time juvenile offenders and their families by offering an alternative to the court process. The Diversion Program benefits society by dealing early and quickly with delinquent behavior. Early intervention also saves tax dollars by reducing the burden on local police departments as well as the court system.
Juveniles will be referred by police, juvenile probation, clerk-magistrates, and schools through police. The juvenile then voluntarily participates in appropriate counseling/education and community service projects. In cases of property damage, the juvenile may also be held responsible for restitution. If the juvenile successfully completes the program the District Attorney will not prosecute the case and there will be no court record of that offense.
Juvenile Diversion Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Which Juveniles are Eligible for the Juvenile Diversion Program?
The Juvenile must be between the ages of 12 and 18 and the offense with which he/she is charged must have taken place in Barnstable, Dukes, or Nantucket County. Only certain first-time offenders will be offered Diversion. A typical case is a misdemeanor such as: shoplifting, minor in possession of alcohol, fake I.D, disorderly conduct, trespassing, and property damage.
The decision to divert is made by Diversion staff in concert with the Assistant District Attorney, police, schools, and juvenile probation.
How Do the Schools Refer to the Juvenile Diversion Program?
Eligible juveniles are referred by school officials to the local police or school resource officer who in turn contact Diversion staff. The decision to divert is made as stated above.
How Will the Referral Work?
There are a number of possible routes by which at-risk youth are brought to the attention of Diversion staff. Police may refer directly to diversion. For example, when a juvenile is arrested, the police may explain the possibility of participation in the Diversion Program to the juvenile and his/her parent/guardian.There are also times when police charge an individual, but do not make an arrest. In these cases, an application for complaint is filled out and submitted to the Clerk’s office for a hearing at a later date.
The Clerk may refer a juvenile to the Diversion program as a result of a clerk’s hearing. Issues brought before the clerk concerning the juveniles are often ideally suited to the Diversion program. Diversion staff attends hearings at which a joint decision is made by the clerk, police, and diversion staff. If it is decided that the juvenile should be diverted, an intake meeting with the juvenile and his/her parents/guardians is held immediately following the hearing. Because participation in the Diversion program is voluntary, both the juvenile and the parents/guardians must be willing to participate before actual intake is conducted.
Finally, cases may be referred to the Diversion program by the court. Although fewer cases are referred by the court than by the police or the clerk, Diversion can be effective in cases where the agreement that the need for services outweighs the need to prosecute in the conventional sense. In these cases, Diversion assists the juvenile through an individualized and closely-monitored service plan.
What Happens Once a Juvenile Enters Diversion?
After agreeing to voluntarily participate in the Diversion program, the juvenile and his/her parents/guardians meet with Diversion staff to begin the intake process. The intake process provides Diversion staff with information relevant to development of an appropriate contract. This individualized contract may refer the juvenile to counseling, educational/youth programs, and community service. Further, the juvenile is required to write a letter of apology, make restitution (where applicable), and write an essay about what was learned from the experience.
Diversion staff is responsible for establishing and monitoring all community service placements. Community service placements include a wide variety of county and town agencies, as well as area non-profit organizations. In cases requiring restitution, Diversion staff assists juveniles by setting up realistic payment plans in order to successfully fulfill their obligations to compensate victims in a timely manner.
Once a Juvenile is Admitted to the Diversion Program, How Will the Police and Prosecutor Know if the Juvenile is Complying with the Requirements, and What Happens if a Juvenile Fails to Comply with the Program?
Diversion staff supervise the juvenile’s case. This includes monitoring counseling, community service, and restitution. Police are informed of the terms and conditions contained in his/her service plan (contract), as well as the juvenile’s progress. If the juvenile chooses to voluntarily withdraw from the program, the arresting officer or police prosecutor will be notified that the case will go forward in court.