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The Effect of Youth Diversion Programs on Recidivism: A Meta-Analytic Review

This article is essential reading for those individuals involved with juvenile justice reform. “Pre- and postcharge diversion programs have been used as a formal intervention strategy for youth offenders since the 1970s. This meta-analysis was conducted to shed some light on whether diversion reduces recidivism at a greater rate than traditional justice system processing and to explore aspects of diversion programs associated with greater reductions in recidivism” (p. 497). Sections cover: formats of diversion programs; relevant theoretical and empirical developments; methodology; results according to the impact of variables in recidivism (intervention programs involving some formal conditions) and caution or warning programs (involving no further action besides the caution); discussion; and implications and future directions for researchers and for program developers. This study found that diversion programs for youth are significantly more successful than traditional juvenile justice systems in reducing recidivism, with programs focusing on medium to high-risk youth being more effective than those targeting low-risk offenders.