What are some strengths and weaknesses of Diversion Programs?

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belarafon eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Diversion Programs are designed to remove a suspect from the criminal justice system without a criminal record. While many aspects of Diversion are used in deals and appeals made with suspects, the most frequent usage of Diversion is in the Juvenile Justice system to give young offenders a second chance.

One of the greatest strengths of Diversion Programs is that they give minor offenders an incentive to stay honest. Arrested and convicted criminals have a 60% recidivism rate in the U.S.; that is, after release from prison, 3/5ths of criminals are just as likely to commit crimes again. However, in cases where a young person is suspected or arrested in a first offence, 70% were shown to not commit a second crime; the relief of not being given a criminal record, combined with the experience of arrest (punishment and humiliation) after committing a crime, was enough to prevent further crime.

One of the greatest weaknesses of Diversion Programs is that it is frequently used as a "free pass" by wealthy families who hire lawyers to tie up the judicial process; a prosecutor may decide that the case is not worth the time to prosecute. They also may allow for a larger number of repeat offenders to escape justice if they are only caught once; an offender who believes that they are only guilty if caught might use the one-time diversion to continue committing crimes, but take more care to avoid capture.

In all cases involving potential Diversion, justice officials need to make sure that the suspect is fully aware of the criminality of his or her actions, and that a Diversion is not forgiveness; the crime remains a crime, and a second arrest will not be allowed Diversion in most cases.