An Evaluation of the Status Offense Diversion Program in the Juvenile Court of Washtenaw County, Michigan
30 Pages Posted: 23 Jul 2008
Date Written: May 24, 2007
The Washtenaw Juvenile Court Status Offense Diversion Program was implemented in 2002 to provide effective non-court interventions for status offenders to resolve presenting problems and prevent delinquent behavior. It is based on the assumption that "status offenses are generally a product of family problems, not delinquency." Specifically it addresses complaints of truancy, educational neglect and incorrigibility. The stated goals of the Diversion program for the juvenile and the family are "increased school attendance, increased parental involvement with youth's educational program, and enhanced psychosocial and family functioning."
This evaluation considered data collected over the first three years of the program. Staff assessments of outcomes indicate that large percentages of the youth were considered to have been successful (40.1%) or moderately successful (23.3%) in the program. Comparison of those assessments with subsequent new offenses demonstrated the general accuracy of the staff assessments. 81.5% of the children who were assessed as successful and 66% of those assessed as moderately successful by the staff committed no subsequent offenses.
There was no correlation between staff assessments of success and the race or gender of the children in the program. There were differences based on age with younger children more likely to be considered successful. Analysis of subsequent offenses by participants revealed consistent results with the incidence of new offenses showing no major disparity by race or gender but again indicating a lower recidivism rate for younger participants.
Comparison of the types of new offenses by gender and race indicated that males were more likely to commit subsequent assault offenses but there were otherwise no significant differences by gender. While African American children were more likely to commit subsequent property offenses, Caucasian children were far more likely to commit subsequent status and drug/alcohol offenses. This evaluation concludes that the status offense diversion program has met its established measures of success and if those continue to be Court goals, the program should continue. Given the age-differential in outcome statistics, revisions to the program, and/or specific staff training, are recommended to address the needs of older children in the program. Further education of school authorities regarding the goals and functions of the program is recommended. Some revision of staff outcome evaluation standards is recommended.
Keywords: juvenile court, family court, courts, diversion, juvenile law
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