Introduction: Randall G. Shelden
Juvenile delinquency continues to be viewed as a major social problem, especially in recent years, as more and more young people join gangs and engage in violence. The solutions being offered by many politicians and criminal justice officials are variations on punitive models of crime control, emphasizing greater use of incarceration and the certification of delinquents as adults.
This approach contributed to the overcrowding of most corrections institutions nationwide, at both the adult level and the juvenile level (Krisberg and Austin, 1993), in spite of research demonstrating that a punitive approach to delinquency may be nonproductive and create more problems (Lemert, 1951; Schur, 1971; Schwartz, 1989; Krisberg and Austin, 1993; Miller, 1998).
Another consequence of this more punitive approach is greater proportions of minorities being incarcerated within the juvenile corrections system (Krisberg and Austin, 1993; Pope and Feyerherm, 1993; Wordes, Bynum, and Corley, 1994). The study by Wordes, Bynum, and Corley (1994) is especially relevant because the researchers addressed the specific issue of minority overrepresentation in detention populations. Their analysis of data from five counties in Michigan revealed that even when variables such as offense and prior records were considered, minority youth were more likely than nonminority youth to be detained.
In view of the above observations, the juvenile justice system is exploring alternatives to the use of secure facilities, as appropriate. Some of these alternatives have come to be known as diversion programs. This Bulletin offers an overview of diversion programs and evaluation findings from the Detention Diversion Advocacy Project (DDAP), a disposition case advocacy program operated in San Francisco, CA, and sponsored by the Center on Juvenile and Criminal Justice (CJCJ).