Our diversion programs and juvenile justice policies are designed to keep young people caught up in the juvenile justice system from returning as adults and to bolster the possibility of their leading productive lives. All for a safer Philadelphia.
Through non-traditional diversion, the DAO’s Juvenile Unit holds youth accountable, increases community safety and facilitates behavior change. A variety of community-based partners allows for developmentally appropriate diversion programming to provide diverted youth with case management, additional supports and services, including, but not limited to: housing support, employment assistance, child care aid, clothing needs, life skills training, transportation assistance, vital document support, and food aid.
JUVENILE JUSTICE: DIVERSION PROGRAMS
We believe many, if not most, of the young people who get caught up in the criminal justice system don’t need to be there.
Instead, they—and the city as a whole—would benefit from alternatives to prosecution and incarceration. Alternatives that prioritize rehabilitation over punishment.
It’s a process we call diversion.
Studies show that effective diversion prevents crime. When young people who are arrested and charged with misdemeanors and less serious felonies participate in programs that address underlying issues, they are more likely to stay out of the criminal justice system. As a result, our communities are safer.
We are actively working on the development, expansion, creation and implementation of non-traditional diversion programs that are tailored to the needs of Philadelphia youth. Our goal is to hold youth accountable in ways that increase community safety and facilitate youth redemption, all within a developmentally-appropriate framework that prioritizes progress over perfection.
Our multi-pronged approach focuses on increased access and options. This includes growing the number and quality of off-ramps that can be used to keep youth out of court and in their communities, recognizing that these are most successful when they lead to effective programs and services.
We are also reassessing current diversion programs. Going beyond diverting youth out of the juvenile justice system and reducing their risk of residential placement, we seek proven, data-driven alternatives for holding youth accountable in ways that help them build productive, fulfilling lives.
Key to this is avoiding the collateral consequences and stigma of justice system involvement.
JUVENILE JUSTICE: DIVERSION PROGRAM SPOTLIGHT
Youth Aid Panels show the power of community.
Youth Aid Panels offer a compelling community-based alternative to prosecution for juveniles who are charged with misdemeanors and low-level felonies.
Rather than entering the juvenile justice system, a young person in diversion appears before the panel, which often also involves their family members. When victims and witnesses are willing, they can also take part in the panel.
Panel deliberations, which require the young person’s participation, focus on what successful accountability and rehabilitation looks like during and after the program. These collaborative discussions are used to form, for the young person, a contract set for 60-90 days that generally identifies a lead monitor and includes some form of counseling and community service.
Once the young person completes their diversion contract, their case is discharged and eligible for expungement.
Our trained volunteer corps of panelists include not only adult members who went before the panel themselves as juveniles, but also those who were victims as young people. This speaks volumes about both the rehabilitation and healing potential of the Youth Aid Panel diversion program.
If you are interested in serving on a Youth Aid Panel in your neighborhood, email Faith Harris, the Program Manager for Juvenile Diversion, at [email protected].
JUVENILE JUSTICE: NEW POLICIES
Juvenile justice policies advance the goals of the District Attorney’s Office to hold youth accountable, increase community safety and facilitate youth redemption—all within a developmentally-appropriate framework.
The District Attorney’s Office has enacted juvenile justice policies to best serve our community and guide the work of the Juvenile Justice Unit. The policies impacted are:
- Pre-Adjudicatory Offer
- Juvenile Reporting Consent Decree
- Juvenile Detention
- Juvenile Disposition
- Juvenile Review Hearing
- The Use of Solitary Confinement
- Direct File Cases