How Juvenile Diversion Benefits the District
For juvenile prosecution decisions, the Office of the Attorney General (OAG) must take into account how best to prosecute a youth to ensure both that public safety is protected and that the youth is given the best chance for genuine rehabilitation. As OAG prosecutors go through this rigorous evaluation process with each offense to decide whether and how to charge the case, they consider whether diversion away from the justice system and toward supportive services is appropriate. Diversion is a creative, data-driven way to approach juvenile justice to ensure the best possible outcomes for young people and for public safety.
What is the ACE Diversion Program?
The Alternatives to Court Experience (ACE) is a program run by the District’s Department of Human Services. Juvenile prosecutors at OAG divert appropriate youth from the justice system to ACE, where program specialists comprehensively assess each child’s needs for services and supports. The assessment measures each child’s stress, trauma and behavioral needs. ACE coordinators use this evaluation and provide an individually tailored program of wrap-around services that will help each child achieve success and avoid reoffending. These services include things like family and individual therapy, mentoring, tutoring, mental-health treatment, recreation and school supports.
What are the benefits of diversion?
Benefits to Youth/Family/Community:
- Changes the trajectory of youths’ lives by keeping them from entering the juvenile delinquency system;
- Provides opportunities for young people and their families to participate in age-appropriate services otherwise not known or available to them; and
- Promotes public safety by reducing recidivism.
Benefits to Government:
- Saves money – ACE cost per youth is approximately $4,000, while the cost of probation, incarceration or residential placement is substantially higher; and
- Promotes and builds upon inter-agency collaboration;
Is diversion effective?
Yes! The success of diversion is supported with data from right here in the District:
- Well above 80% of youth diverted to ACE have not been rearrested since completing the program;
- 88% of youth had improved Child and Adolescent Functional Assessment Scale (CAFAS) scores after completing the program; and
- 62% of youth showed improved school attendance after completing the program.
How is the Office of the Attorney General leveraging diversion to promote public safety and improve outcomes for youth?
Since taking office in 2015, Attorney General Racine has dramatically increased the number of youth OAG diverts to ACE for minor, low-level offenses. The agency now diverts five times more juveniles than it did prior to March 2015.
Diversion in the News
- Attorney General Racine writes in The Washington Post: D.C. does have a successful youth diversion program
- WAMU: How A D.C. Diversion Program Helps Get Young Lives Off The Ropes
- NBC4: Boxing Helps 11-Year-Old Boy After Arrest
WAMU: Youth Program Points To Ways D.C. Can Be 'Far More Creative' Against Crime