New Report Finds Inequality of Court Diversion within U.S. Juvenile System

By Daniella Espinoza

WASHINTON, DC – A new report here appears to demonstrate that in the U.S. the juvenile criminal justice system has the same racial disparities discussed by activists, politicians and social justice groups related, to the adult system.

The Sentencing Project in-depth analysis, “Diversion: A Hidden Key to Combating Racial and Ethnic Disparities in Juvenile Justice,” highlights the juvenile system and the use of diversion from court as a tool for youth.

Through its study, the Sentencing Project found the juvenile justice system plays a large role in the unequal use of such tools especially when it comes to Black youth. They found that nationwide, in 2019, “52 percent of delinquency cases involving white youth were handled informally (diverted), far higher than the share of cases diverted involving Black youth (40 percent).”

The analysis also found the disparity of diverting youth from court by race was present in almost all major areas of offense. 

In addition to research from as recent as 2019, the scathing study points to decades of existing research, detailing how diversion from juvenile court often results in better outcomes for the youth such as lower recidivism, higher rates of school enrollment and completion, and even higher incomes in later adulthood. 

As a result of their findings, The Sentencing Project noted that while a number of states have adopted newer strategies to improve on the existing diversion practices, such “efforts to expand diversion opportunities to date have most often lacked an explicit and determined focus on reducing racial and ethnic disparities – an essential ingredient for success.”

About The Author

Daniella is a fourth year transfer student at UC Berkeley pursuing degrees in both Political Science and Chicano studies. Before Berkeley, Daniella found her passion exploring the complexities of the criminal justice system and how this intersects with the Chicano community. After graduation, she plans to find work in the public sector where she hopes to make meaningful change in her community.

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