Juvenile diversion: When practice matches theory

D. Wayne Osgood, Hart F. Weichselbaum

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

15 Scopus citations


Research has shown that most juvenile diversion programs are precluded from reaching their goals of reducing coercion, social control, and stigma because they serve populations that are not, in fact, diverted from the justice system. The present study addressed the issue of whether properly implemented diversion programs would meet these goals. The question was examined in terms of service providers' and clients' views about diversion and justice programs. The study included samples from nine diversion programs and associated justice agencies. Findings for both service providers and clients were quite consistent across sites in demonstrating that diversion programs do constitute a true alternative to services from justice agencies. The study also compared the views of clients to those of service providers. It was found that clients considered diversion programs more oriented to coercion and social control and less oriented to serving clients' needs. On the other hand, clients believed that service providers held more positive views about clients than was actually the case. The findings indicate that labeling processes differ among alternative societal responses to deviance, but also that youths may not be very sensitive to the negative opinions others hold about them. The import of the study for social policy is that diversion programs hold considerable promise for reducing coercion, social control, and perhaps stigma, if problems of implementation can be overcome.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)33-56
Number of pages24
JournalJournal of Research in Crime and Delinquency
Issue number1
StatePublished - Feb 1984

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Social Psychology


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