The Juvenile Diversion Unit provides an alternative to the criminal juvenile justice system for adolescents who have committed a crime. The Juvenile Diversion Program is an innovative model, which works with certain first-time juvenile offenders and their families by offering an alternative to the court process. The Diversion Program benefits society by dealing early and quickly with delinquent behavior. Early intervention also saves tax dollars by reducing the burden on local police departments as well as the probation and court systems.
After agreeing to voluntarily participate in the Diversion program, the juvenile and his/her parents/guardians meet with Diversion staff to begin the intake process. The intake process provides Diversion staff with information relevant to development of an appropriate contract. This individualized contract may refer the juvenile to counseling, educational/youth programs, and community service. Further, where applicable, the juvenile may be required to write a letter of apology, make restitution, and write an essay about what was learned from the experience.
Diversion staff is responsible for establishing and monitoring all community referrals and works closely with the Boys and Girls’ Club Teen Court. Boys and Girls’ Club Teen Court involves students of high school age sitting as a court and determining the appropriate judgment for each case, including community service placements. Community service placements consist of a wide variety of county and town agencies, as well as area non-profit organizations. This aspect of the Diversion Program is voluntary; the juvenile defendants have assumed responsibility for their offense, and have elected to be judged by their peers in determining the sentence to be imposed.
The Juvenile Diversion program concentrates on changing the behavior of at-risk youth — helping them to make appropriate changes in their social and behavioral environments in order to become well adjusted individuals. A primary focus to this goal is working with the family as a whole, and with the parents as a unit. Parental involvement is a crucial step toward making the necessary changes in an adolescent’s life. Parenting courses and coaching are often provided in conjunction with the Diversion Contract.
Residents of Arcata and students in Arcata schools are eligible for this program.