Assessing Juvenile Diversion Reforms in Kentucky

Research Report

Assessing Juvenile Diversion Reforms in Kentucky

Abstract

In 2014, Kentucky fundamentally transformed its juvenile justice system with the goal of improving outcomes for youth and families, protecting public safety, and controlling youth corrections costs. Among other changes, comprehensive reform legislation (Senate Bill 200) expanded and enhanced the state’s precourt diversion process administered by the Administrative Office of the Courts (AOC). The new law required that AOC and county attorneys offer all youth referred to intake on first-time misdemeanor complaints an opportunity to be diverted from court, strictly limited county attorneys’ authority to override diversion decisions for youth meeting the criteria for a mandatory diversion offer, and made diversion possible for youth referred to intake on first-time felonies not involving sexual offenses or deadly weapons. This brief examines how Senate Bill 200 diversion reforms impacted case decisionmaking and outcomes for youth referred to intake on less serious offenses. Findings indicate that Kentucky significantly increased the proportion of youth diverted from formal court involvement and maintained high success rates (nearly 9 out of 10 youth completed diversion and avoided formal court involvement), with no substantive impact on recidivism.

Technical Appendix

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