WASHINGTON (July 24) –– The youth justice system in the United States is shrinking. But at the same time, the historic disproportionality between white youth and youth of color in the system remains. In fact, when it comes to the arrest rate of youth of color relative to that of white youth, the gap has actually widened over time.

In a new policy study, R Street associate director of criminal justice policy, Nila Bala, and criminal justice fellow, Emily Mooney, instead consider diversion and its overall goals, and how—when best practices are followed—it can be an intervention that supports individual dignity, limited government and the preservation of community. The authors address the need to promote racial and ethnic equity and identify a few causes of disparities at the point of diversion. And finally, they recommend policy solutions that aim to promote equity and its proper use.

Bala and Mooney argue that these policy recommendations can help to ensure that our justice system lives up to its promise—namely, justice for all, equality under the law and a dedication to enhancing our communities.

They add: “The full potential of diversion policies and programs are undermined when youth of different racial and ethnic backgrounds do not have the same opportunities to be diverted and are not offered programs with their individual needs in mind.”