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Choosing the right path: Diverting youth from the Juvenile Justice System

When a young person breaks the law, we have to respond carefully to ensure that each youth is both held accountable for their actions and put on a path towards a bright, productive adulthood. Unfortunately, involvement in the formal juvenile justice system often unnecessarily puts low-risk youth deeper into the system than necessary and increases their chances of future offending.

Many counties across Nebraska currently offer juvenile diversion programs, which allow low-risk youth to receive services and pay restitution to those impacted by their actions. If a young person successfully completes the program, charges are never filed. This program presents both a cost-savings to local counties and our state, and an effective way of ensuring youth get the services they need in the least restrictive way. National studies have shown benefits for both youth and communities.

Nebraska should take action to strengthen diversion by ensuring it is available to youth across our state, regardless of where they live, implementing effective screening tools, and increasing the use of services that have a basis in research.

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