YouthZone column: Why Diversion Programs are Important
Diversion programs are an important component of the Criminal Justice System, offering alternatives to incarceration that can reduce recidivism and help those who participate get a job. In 2020, the Colorado Division of Criminal Justice reported a 20% increase in diversion program participation compared to the previous year. In an effort to provide young people with an alternative to the criminal justice system, YouthZone’s Juvenile Diversion Program was created in partnership with the District Attorney’s office.
YouthZone’s Juvenile Diversion Program is beneficial to the Roaring Fork and Colorado River Valleys. It gives young people an alternative to the Criminal Justice System and teaches them how to make better decisions. YouthZone and the District Attorney’s Office partner to ensure the health and well-being of the youth in the community. We believe many low-level juvenile offenders don’t belong in the Juvenile Justice System and should be supervised with conditions to help them avoid unlawful behavior and set them up for a positive future.
Under Colorado Law, one option for youth involved in the Juvenile Justice System is to voluntarily enter a Diversion Program. Juvenile Diversion avoids a delinquency adjudication and requires the juvenile to engage with education and treatment recommendations, restitution, useful public service, and/or restorative justice practices. Juvenile Diversion eligibility is provided in compliance with § 19-2.5-402, C.R.S.
YouthZone’s Juvenile Diversion Program covers the entire Ninth Judicial District, including Garfield, Pitkin and Rio Blanco counties, and serves youth facing criminal charges. Eligibility is based on charge level, impact on the community, risk to the community, Arizona Risk and Needs Assessment (ARNA) score, lack of pending cases and supervision, and no felony convictions in the past three years. The District Attorney’s Office can make exceptions as appropriate for juveniles with no or limited misdemeanors, traffic, or municipal convictions in the past two years.
Juvenile Diversion is beneficial for victims and has positive effects on the community. It holds the Juvenile accountable for their behaviors, without blame or minimization. Requirements for participation must be met, such as attendance, refraining from new offenses, and Restorative Justice processes. In YouthZone Diversion programming, youth have access to services such as youth coaching, substance intervention, mental health, and parent education. The Ninth Judicial District administers Juvenile Diversion through YouthZone and can be contacted via phone at 970-945-9300 or online at http://www.youthzone.com.
Youth Advocacy is an important aspect of YouthZone’s work. Youth advocates build trusting relationships with youth, ensure their human rights are respected and their perspective is heard. They also help youth develop skills for overall health and wellbeing, education, employment, relationships and more. Additionally, Advocates protect youth’s self-esteem when interacting with adults in authoritative roles such as judges, lawyers, law enforcement and teachers.
When youth and families feel isolated or face negative judgement from their community, it is difficult to create positive change. YouthZone promotes positive change by reconnecting youth and family with their community through advocacy for their needs, connections to resources, and by bringing people together to build relationships and create a healthy community where youth and families can feel a sense of belonging.
YouthZone is a family-first nonprofit that supports parents and guardians, families, and adolescents. From Aspen to Parachute, we offer parent counseling and education services, family resources, and comprehensive assessment and advocacy to inspire healthy relationships between youth, families, and communities. To learn more about how YouthZone can help, please call us at 970-945-9300.
Airen Goodman is the Program Director at YouthZone and the CYDC Senate Bill 94 Coordinator for the Ninth Judicial District. Airen holds a Master’s Degree in Psychology with an emphasis in Mediation and Conflict Resolution. Airen’s background and skills include mental health counseling, crisis intervention, restorative justice, and mediation. Airen moved to Colorado from Utah and started working with YouthZone in August 2018. She enjoys spending time with her family and playing in the outdoors.
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