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Does Diversion Work in Juvenile Justice, or Is Just Another Exercise in Net-Widening?
Statistics can be interpreted in ways that reflect the purposes of those employing them. The figures in this paper would appear to
be favourable to the supporters of the diversionary options available within the YOA. The number of court appearances involving young people has declined and that in itself is a commendable outcome. However is the reduction in numbers merely the dispersal of those young people to lower levels of the Juvenile Justice system with the net widening significantly around them? Alder and Wundersitz (1994) argue that the essential issue of net widening is whether or not the program is meeting its intended goals. They claim that the justice system has the capacity to transform over time even the best designed diversion program. When this occurs, what may be left in place is a juvenile justice system that is larger, that has expanded its coercive control into new arenas of youthful behaviour, and is drawing in evermore young people who previously would have been ignored. Thus claims Polk (1993) "Rather than seeing net-widening as an unanticipated consequence of such destructuring initiatives as diversion (as Cohen, 1985 has suggested), the expansion of social control should be viewed as a logical result of the basic ideas of those who create such programs. …
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