We need to divert more young people from the criminal justice system

Photo by kevin laminto on Unsplash

Diversionary schemes create better outcomes for young people and keep communities safer. Their time has come, says With You’s Jen Rushworth-Claeys.

Diversion is a common sense approach that needs to be at the forefront of our thinking around young people in the criminal justice system for drug offences.

Between us we’ve worked in YP drug and alcohol services for nearly 15 years. We’ve seen first hand the ‘revolving door’ of low-level offending and short-term sentencing, and the disruption to treatment that it brings. We’ve seen the lost opportunities for engagement and support. We’ve seen how much the criminal justice system affects the futures of young people who otherwise need support.

Evidence has shown prosecuting young people for low-level, first time offences is not effective at reducing crime, and young people who find themselves in the justice system are often more likely to reoffend. It also creates long-term damaging consequences, from the impact and stigma of having a criminal record to having education and employment interrupted.

Our experience of delivering a diversion scheme for young people in Kent has shown us their importance, value and effectiveness. The Kent Youth Drug Intervention Scheme (KYDIS) provides an alternate means of dealing with young people under the age of 18 who are found in possession of class B or C drugs, and with no long-term history of drug use.

The programme reduces the likelihood of young people falling into a cycle of criminality by diverting them from entering the criminal justice system. This intervention entails the young person receiving a one-to-one intervention with With You. They are provided with direct support, education on drugs and alcohol, information regarding the law, prevention of drug use and harm reduction advice. Once police receive confirmation of attendance from With You, the associated crime report is finalised as a ‘Community Resolution with Restorative Justice’.

Read the full blog post here.

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