This report describes study that synthesized the experimental research evaluations of diversion programs published between 1980 and 2011, examining the overall effects of diversion developed since Gensheimer et al. (1986); the authors sought to expand the evidence base for diversion by analyzing the moderating effect of program types and implementation rigor.
Research to establish an evidence-base for the treatment of conduct problems and delinquency in adolescence is well established; however, an evidence-base for interventions with offenders who are diverted from the juvenile justice system has yet to be synthesized. The purpose of this study was to conduct a meta-analysis of experimental studies testing juvenile diversion programs and to examine the moderating effect of program type and implementation quality. A literature search using PsycINFO, Web of Science, and the National Criminal Justice Reference Service databases and research institute websites yielded 28 eligible studies involving 57 experimental comparisons and 19,301 youths. Recidivism was the most common outcome reported across all studies. Overall, the effect of diversion programs on recidivism was non-significant (k = 45, OR = 0.83, 95%CI = 0.43–1.58). Of the five program types identified, including case management (k = 18, OR = 0.78), individual treatment (k = 11, OR = 0.83), family treatment (k = 4, OR = 0.57), youth court (k = 6, OR = 0.93), and restorative justice (k = 6, OR = 0.87), only family treatment led to a statistically significant reduction in recidivism. Restorative justice studies that were implemented with active involvement of researchers led to statistically significant reductions in recidivism (k = 3, OR = 0.69). Other outcomes, including frequency of offending, truancy, and psycho-social problems were reported infrequently and were not subjected to meta-analysis. High levels of heterogeneity characterize diversion research. Results of this study recommend against implementation of programs limited to case management and highlight the promise of family interventions and restorative justice. Publisher Abstract Provided
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