Youth diversion includes programs and mechanisms used by police and courts to assist young people to address the underlying reasons for their offending. If completed successfully the police and courts usually don’t proceed with a charge or a conviction. This is a win win. The young people get the help they need and are very unlikely to re-offend. Evaluations of diversion programs show they are extremely effective and much more cost effective than court convictions and even higher level sentencing such as supervisory orders, probation and detention. See this Youth Diversion factsheet for the facts.
Smart Justice for Young People and many youth & community organisations have campaigned for many years for youth diversion to be a mandatory (i.e. legislated) in the Children’s Court, as it is in the adult court system, & that diversion be adequately funded to provide effective programs to all young people needing them.
Prior to the state election in 2014 the Victorian Government announced it would commit $600,000 for 1 year for a pilot of pre-plea diversion programs in the Children’s Court. During the 2014 election the Andrews Labor opposition also committed to funding the youth diversion pilots, to legislate diversion and invest in state-wide diversion programs.
A one year pilot was implemented and evaluated in 5 sites over 2015-16. The providers were Jesuit Social Services and Youth Support Advocacy Service (YSAS). The pilots were at the courts in Dandenong, Broadmeadows, Sunshine and Werribee. JSS was the sole provider in rural court of Ballarat and satellite courts of Ararat and Stawell. Under the program assessment for diversion takes place at court, with tailored diversion plans involving either an apology, anger management program, or case management (up to 12 to 14 weeks). See the Age article about the pilot
In April 2016 we welcomed the Andrews Government’s 2016/17 Victorian Budget commitment to on-going funding of diversion & bail support . Bail support operates similar to diversion linking young people to services and supports they require. This can include housing, mental health and therapeutic services.
- $5.6 million over two years for a youth diversion program in the Children’s Court, and
- $1 million plus over two years to expand the Youth Justice Bail Supervision program.
What action do we want?
- We want on-going funding of diversion beyond the current 2 year commitment.
- Funding of a state-wide cautioning program that links young people to the supports they require.
- Adequate funding for bail support programs and bail supervision.
Further info on diversion & cautioning
In 2014 we also produced a video providing the perspective of young people. See this video Youth Diverison Works video.
In November 2013 SJFYP held a briefing on youth diversion at Parliament House to give parliamentarians more information on youth diversion. See what we said about why it makes sense.
In October 2012 Smart Justice for Young People Coalition responded to the State Government’s Diversion Discussion Paper ‘Practical Lessons, Fair Consequences’. Our submission highlighted inconsistent and inequitable access to diversion across the state. Our key recommendation was for legislated pre-plea diversion in the Children’s Court and adequate funding of it. Download this submission here.