WASHINGTON (Sept. 12, 2022) –– A new short report published today by R Street’s Director of State Government Affairs, Marc Hyden, and Western Region Director, Steven Greenhut, examines the value of juvenile deflection programs in the U.S. criminal justice system. The report provides specific policy recommendations that align with findings from R Street’s recent policy study, “Overview of Juvenile Deflection in the United States: A State-by-State Comparison,” released earlier this month.

Juvenile deflection is a police-led type of pre-arrest diversion. Hyden and Greenhut’s short report looks at the public safety and fiscal benefits deflection can provide and also highlights a case study from Duval County, Fla., that demonstrates the practical benefits of deflection programs.

This report is timely, as even though violent crimes dominate the news, 95 percent of youth arrests in the United States are for low-level crimes—sometimes even for technical violations—and 57 percent of those currently incarcerated are serving time for nonviolent crimes.

Deflection programs, which are designed to redirect youth who commit low-level crimes to resources outside the justice system, have been widely studied since the 1970s. Research has found that young people involved in such programs are 45 percent less likely to re-offend than those who are processed through the criminal justice system. The taxpayer cost savings are also well documented. These programs provide youth with help, rather than incarceration, and offer pathways back to families and communities.

“Americans are not wrong to be concerned about the latest overall explosion in crime,” said Hyden. “But youth crime rates have continued to fall; there is no reason to jettison deflection programs now. The best way to be tough on crime is to be smart about it and continue along a reform-minded path.”

Read the full policy study here.