Diversion is a voluntary program offered to certain offenders under the age of 18 for first-time offenses deemed appropriate by the County Attorney.
The juvenile diversion program is based on the belief not all cases are best handled through a formal complaint and court hearing. In juvenile diversion, candidates charged with an offense are diverted from further involvement in the court system and into a program offering a continuum of requirements. Individuals offered diversion must successfully complete the program requirements in order to earn a dismissal, or its equivalent, of the diverted case.
Diversion holds juvenile offenders accountable in less time and for less cost than sending them through the formal court system.
· From filing to sentencing, it is estimated that it costs Merrick County around $2,580* per juvenile who enters the court system.
· From referral (when the County Attorney sends the case to the Diversion Coordinator) to dismissal (when the youth completes all the requirements of their contract and the County Attorney drops the charges) it costs Merrick County about $350* per juvenile for diversion (at least half of this is paid for by County Aid Grant money).
· This does not reflect how long carrying out the sentencing takes. Probation lasts about 6-12 months on average. The contract for a diverted case usually begins within weeks of when the actual offense was committed and is complete in 3-6 months; this includes the disciplinary aspects!
· Restitution is always collected before the end of the juvenile's contract. In the court system, it could take up to a year or more after the crime is committed for restitution to be paid if it is collected at all.
· Since 2009, 80% of diverted juveniles have successfully completed their diversion contract. In 2011 alone 90% were successful.
· Of those that have finished successfully, only 6% have recidivated (committed another offense).
· Juveniles in the Diversion Program learn what it means to be a person with good character and how to avoid getting tripped up by peer pressure.
· Diversion is NOT a “slap on the wrist” for juveniles who commit crimes. Each juvenile is held accountable for his or her actions by required fees and community service. They are also required to make amends with any victims involved through formal apologies and restitution.
· The program uses evidence-based assessment techniques to determine each juvenile's needs and tailors their individual contract to fit those needs and the offense committed.
· The Merrick, Nance, and Polk County Juvenile Diversion Program is based on the 40 Developmental Assets developed by Search Institute. Every aspect of the program is designed to build Assets in youth and to educate parents on how to build Assets in their children as well.
*This amount was calculated based on the salaries of all professionals involved in an average juvenile case and does not include other expenses. It was also calculated by using an average duration of three months.