25 Sep 23

What kinds of diversion programs are available for juveniles in New York?

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Last Updated on: 28th September 2023, 07:48 pm

What Kinds of Diversion Programs Are Available for Juveniles in New York?

Getting into some trouble as a kid doesn’t mean you’re doomed to end up with a criminal record. New York offers several “diversion programs” aimed at keeping juvenile offenders out of the formal justice system. These programs provide supervision, services, and accountability without the stigma of an arrest or conviction. But what specific diversion options exist for juveniles in New York? Let’s take a look at some of the main programs available.

Pre-Court Diversion

Many counties in New York utilize pre-court diversion programs run through the probation department. These programs work to divert juveniles before a petition is even filed with the court [1]. The process involves:

  1. Police or school refer the juvenile to probation intake
  2. Probation screens them for eligibility based on factors like offense severity
  3. If eligible, the juvenile enters the diversion program
  4. Upon completion, charges are dropped and no petition is filed

Pre-court diversion provides an “off-ramp” before formal court processing ever begins. Probation supervision and services aim to prevent further issues.

Family Court Diversion

New York Family Courts also offer diversion services through their probation departments. The juvenile is referred to probation, which conducts an assessment. If eligible, probation recommends diversion, which the judge can order instead of adjudication. The juvenile is supervised by probation and connected to services. Upon successful completion, the original petition is dismissed [2].

Project Redirect

Project Redirect is an alternative sentencing program available in some counties like Onondaga. It is intended for juveniles with substance abuse issues who commit nonviolent offenses. The intensive 6-12 month program includes [1]:

  • Probation supervision
  • Substance abuse counseling
  • Family therapy
  • Community service
  • Educational support

Upon successful completion, charges are dismissed or reduced. The program aims to address underlying issues driving delinquency.

Youth Courts

Some New York counties utilize youth courts, also known as peer courts or teen courts. Juveniles who commit minor offenses go before a court of their peers, who determine appropriate sanctions like community service, apologies, counseling, etc. If completed, charges are dismissed. Youth courts provide accountability while avoiding formal processing [2].

Restorative Justice Programs

Restorative justice practices like victim-offender mediation are also used as diversion for juveniles in some New York communities. Victims, offenders, and others meet to discuss the harm caused and how to make amends. Agreements reached serve as an alternative to formal sanctions. Some counties have community accountability boards to oversee this process [2].

Mental Health Diversion

Juveniles with mental health disorders may be eligible for mental health court programs in some New York counties. These courts divert youth into treatment, counseling, and other services to address mental health needs. Probation officers, case managers, and the judge closely monitor progress. Charges can be dismissed upon successful completion [3].

Law Enforcement Diversion

Some police departments in New York offer diversion programs for first-time juvenile offenders who commit low-level crimes. Options include [1]:

  • Community service
  • Written apologies
  • Participation in law-related education classes

No arrest is made if the juvenile successfully completes the diversion requirements specified by the officer.

School-Based Diversion

Many schools also run their own diversion programs outside of court involvement. These aim to correct behavior problems before they escalate. Interventions can include [4]:

  • Behavioral contracts
  • Counseling sessions
  • Mentoring programs
  • Restorative practices

School programs provide diversion at the earliest opportunity when issues first arise.

Community-Based Diversion

Some nonprofit organizations in New York offer community-based diversion programs as well. These programs work with juveniles pre-court to provide services like [5]:

  • Mentoring
  • Counseling
  • Job training
  • Tutoring
  • Community service

They aim to address root causes and prevent further system involvement.

Key Benefits of Diversion

Juvenile diversion programs offer many benefits compared to formal court processing. Some key advantages include:

  • Avoiding stigma of arrest/conviction
  • Access to services and support
  • Increased community ties
  • Lower recidivism rates
  • Reduced system costs
  • Better life outcomes

Diversion provides a “second chance” and opens up a more positive path forward.

Assessing Candidates for Diversion

Not every juvenile is automatically eligible for diversion in New York. Factors considered in assessment include [1]:

  • Offense type and severity
  • Criminal history
  • Age and maturity
  • Risk level
  • Needs
  • Attitude and motivation

Each program has specific eligibility criteria and screens candidates appropriately. Diversion is reserved for those likely to benefit and not reoffend.

The Importance of Completion

While enrollment in diversion is a second chance, juveniles must complete all requirements to get charges dismissed. Failure to comply could still result in formal court processing. Support is provided, but youth must take accountability and follow through.


  1. New York State Juvenile Justice Advisory Group 2018 Annual Report
  2. Diversion Programs for Juvenile Offenders in New York State
  3. Mental Health Courts
  4. In-school diversion programs for court-involved youth
  5. What Is Diversion in Juvenile Justice?