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Pathways Juvenile Diversion

By Sue Ferrere · 2024-01-18T00:00:00.000Z

“Pathways’ success shows that in our community young people who come into contact with law enforcement can benefit from diversion programs and community partners. I am proud of our investment in policies and strategies that prevent unnecessary justice system involvement, and help young people get the support they need to move forward.” – 1st Judicial District Attorney Alexis King

Our juvenile diversion programs provide an opportunity for young people to avoid a criminal record and further contact with the criminal justice system. Juveniles and young adults suspected of a crime are initially assessed at the Juvenile Assessment Center (“JAC”). More than half are referred for Diversion programming, including Pathways, Sexting Solutions, and the Low-Risk Offender Program (LROP). Juvenile prosecution focuses on higher risk juveniles who have committed multiple offenses or are suspected of serious crimes.

It's important to note that when we talk about “risk” in this context, we’re talking about risk of future involvement in the system. A risk assessment evaluates the factors in an individual’s life that make them more or less likely to be involved in the system in the future; for example, supportive family members and school enrollment are protective factors against future involvement whereas use of alcohol or drugs is a risk factor for future system involvement. The term “needs,” in this context, include interventions - like behavioral health treatment or employment skills training - that bolster protective factors or reduce risk factors

In 2023, 23% of juvenile cases were diverted through the Pathways diversion program. Our Pathways Encourage and Engage program (E&E) provides an alternative to traditional prosecution tailored to a juvenile’s individual risks/needs. Clients range from 10 to 17 years old, but most are between 14 and 16. Approximately 70% of referrals are pre-file (meaning the case was a direct referral to Pathways and has not been filed into the court system). Most (65%) are charged with a misdemeanor, while only 25% of juvenile defendants accepted into Pathways diversion are accused of felonies. These felonies are lower-level, and less than 25% of Pathways E&E cases involve VRA offenses. A “VRA” offense is covered by the Victim Rights Act, which outlines the rights of crime victims and the responsibilities of criminal justice agencies to support them. See also our data story Serving Victims of Crime.

Pathways juvenile clients are assessed for their risks, strengths, and needs using a screening tool and/or full risk assessment. Once assessed, the clients meet with an experienced client specialist who develops individualized programming targeted to the juvenile’s risks and needs. For example, if a juvenile is accused of theft and the risk assessment indicates substance use as a risk factor for future system involvement, the programming would likely involve substance use assessment and treatment.

Outcomes. Since its inception in 2022, the Pathways program has had an impressive success rate of 91% for juvenile participants. Upon successful completion of the program, the juvenile's case is either dismissed or not filed at all, and the records are sealed.

Benefits.  In addition to avoiding a criminal record, juveniles experience improved school enrollment, a known protective factor against justice system involvement. At the time of arrest, 8% of participants were not enrolled in school, were truant, or were suspended. At completion, 100% of juveniles who were truant at the start were re-enrolled or had completed school.

Recidivism.  Because the program is relatively new, there is limited but very encouraging recidivism data. 57 juveniles completed Pathways at least one year ago, and none have had a new case filed in the 1st Judicial District.