The Center for Juvenile Justice and Reform (CJJR) at the Georgetown University McCourt School of Public Policy awarded a Fairfax County team the 2016 Capstone of the Year Award for their efforts and success in redesigning and enhancing the youth diversion and restorative justice program. Together, they reduced the use of formal processing and incarceration, improved public safety, avoided wasteful spending and limited the collateral consequences of youth who find themselves in the criminal justice system.
The Fairfax County team—comprised of several county agencies—participated in the CJJR’s 2014 Juvenile Diversion Certificate Program Capstone Project. Together, they created a two-part process aimed at improving diversion policies and practices. One part, the Adolescent Accountability Program (AAP), provided a community alternative to formal criminal charges against youth offenders. The second endeavor was to redesign the juvenile intake process through revised and enhanced use of screening and assessment tools, which enabled court services staff to identify specific needs of individual offenders in order to assign appropriate and individual levels of supervision and treatment options.
The team examined and revised current policy and practices, to include changing eligibility criteria for diversion programming, implementing an informal diversion option and expanded the AAP program to allow more officers to refer youth to diversion and implementing a more sophisticated risk-need assessment tool to provide specific needs to diversion-eligible youth. Since the program’s inception, 449 youth participants moved forward with the diversion process (51% were youth of color). Of those, 108 referrals participated in AAP (55% were youth of color).
Results of the Capstone Project showed an overall increase in successful completion of the diversion program from 84% in 2015 to 95% in 2016. Recidivism (repeat offenders) also appeared to have been reduced, with only 17% of youth offenders receiving new charges within six months of completing diversion. Efforts and progress of new implementations will continue to be monitored and evaluated in the future.
The Fairfax County team consisted of law enforcement officers, probation staff, prosecutors, school officials, judges, policy makers and other youth-focused leaders. Representatives of the following county agencies participated in the 2014 Juvenile Diversion Certificate Program Capstone Project:
- Fairfax County Police Department
- Court Services Unit
- Fairfax County Public Schools
- Fairfax County Department of Neighborhood and Community Services
- Northern Virginia Mediation Services
The Capstone of the Year Award is a prestigious, nationally-recognized award that distinguishes a certificate program participant, or team, who demonstrates the most significant progress in promoting the overall well-being of youth in their community through multi-system approaches.