Understanding Diversion


CEPP partnered with the National Association of Pretrial Services Agencies (NAPSA) to develop Diversion 101, a 12-part article series about diversion, or programs whose strategies are designed to help people avoid formal processing by the justice system. Diversion, which can take many forms and vary widely in focus and scope, is largely misunderstood. This series is intended to provide clarity to the field about what diversion is, its purposes, and its processes.

Our Approach

With support from the Department of Justice, Bureau of Justice Assistance, CEPP partnered with NAPSA to synthesize research from the pretrial and corrections fields to create the peer-reviewed, research-based Diversion 101 series. The articles in the series build upon one another, summarizing previous foundational work that has been done in this area and advancing the field’s understanding of what diversion is and what it can offer.

Taken together, the publications examine:

  • What diversion is and what it is not
  • The primary purposes of diversion
  • Whether diversion contributes to public safety
  • How the “what works” research can be used to determine who should be considered for diversion
  • The key justice system decision points at which diversion can take place
  • The principles that should guide diversionary efforts, and the research pertinent to diversion
  • The role of victims and victim service providers in establishing diversion options
  • The importance of engaging the community in diversion programs
  • Performance measurement criteria for diversionary programs

The series culminates in a step-by-step guide to policy-driven, research-informed diversionary options that helps readers consider how the potential of diversionary programs and services can be maximized.

The Impact

Diversion 101 standardizes the field’s understanding of diversion: what it is, its benefits, how to evaluate its impacts, and how to determine which programs should be replicated for the best outcomes. It also offers a roadmap for planning, implementing, and sustaining research-based diversionary options.

With this roadmap, agencies are better positioned to benefit from the important opportunity that diversion offers—at several pre-conviction points—as an alternative to traditional case processing. Research demonstrates that when the appropriate group of people is diverted to properly designed and administered diversionary options,  the collateral consequences of justice involvement can be avoided while conserving limited public resources and increasing community well-being and safety.

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