Reducing Ethnoracial Inequality: A Prosecutor-Led Community Based Diversion Program for Juveniles and Young Adults

Can a prosecutor-led diversion program reduce racial/ethnic inequality in youth contact with the juvenile justice system?

Prior research suggests that Latino, American Indian, and Black juveniles and young adults are more likely than their White counterparts to be arrested, charged, incarcerated, and given longer sentences, and are less likely to be diverted from harsh punishments or receive rehabilitation-based approaches. Padgett-Macias, who leads the District Attorney’s office in the First Judicial District of New Mexico, will work with a team of researchers to understand and address disproportionate minority contact with the criminal justice system, which is not only an indicator of inequality but a contributor to long-term inequalities in health, education, and further justice system contact. The team will use the district’s extensive administrative dataset and matching techniques to estimate the extent and sources of disproportionate minority contact and recidivism among juveniles and young adults, focusing on comparisons between Latino and White youth. They will supplement these findings with interviews with youth formerly involved in the system and with stakeholders such as judges and probation officers to develop a risk assessment tool. The tool will then be used to decide whether or not to assign youth to a diversion program. The team will use matching techniques to whether assess the diversion program seems to reduce system contact and recidivism and conduct additional qualitative work to identify ways to improve the program. Findings stand to improve criminal justice practice locally and offer lessons to district attorney offices around the country.

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