Plan to Expand Youth Diversion in LA County

Thousands more youth in Los Angeles County facing contact with the nation’s largest juvenile justice system are expected to be offered community-based alternatives to the traditional court system beginning next year. In a landmark vote on November 7th, the Board of Supervisors approved a plan to implement a countywide approach to youth diversion which will allow youth 17 & under to participate in community programs like Restorative Practices in Communities (RPIC)’s Restorative Youth Diversion program.

CCEJ’s RPIC team contributed to the development of the approved plan, A Roadmap For Advancing Youth Diversion In Los Angeles County, as a member agency of the Countywide Criminal Justice Coordination Committee’s Youth Diversion Subcommittee (YDS). Through the collaboration of youth and families impacted by the juvenile justice system, community-based organizations, law enforcement agencies, District Attorneys, and county agencies, the YDS developed a comprehensive approach aiming to reduce the overall number of arrests, referrals to probation, and petitions filed against youth in the county which disproportionately impacts African American and Latino youth.

As part of the recommendations, Los Angeles County will develop the Office of Youth Diversion and Development (OYDD) to oversee the implementation of the plan and ensure that police departments divert all youth suspected of committing status offenses, misdemeanors, and low-level felonies to community-based programs prior to arrest to connect youth to services that meet their underlying needs and eliminate the burden of an arrest or criminal record.

RPIC Program Director Vanessa Petti was featured in the The Chronicle of Social Change prior to the vote advocating for diversion opportunities for more serious felony offenses as well as a systematized approach to ensuring all youth eligible for diversion are referred to a community program. While an estimated 11,000 youth were eligible for diversion in 2015, only a small number were offered diversion due to lack of infrastructure. As Petti noted, “Just last year, [RPIC] was only given 100 cases through our diversion system for the juvenile justice system,” but she is hopeful that this plan will increase the number of cases diverted to community programs like RPIC that foster a restorative approach to addressing harm and decrease youth involvement with the juvenile justice system in the upcoming year.

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