Advancing Racial Equity in Youth Diversion: An Evaluation Framework Informed by Los Angeles County

June 2019

In partnership with the Los Angeles County Office of Youth Diversion and Development, we created an evaluation framework for assessing racial equity in youth diversion.

About This Evaluation Framework

In 2017, Los Angeles County established an Office of Youth Diversion and Development to advance a collaboratively designed pre-booking diversion initiative that prevents youth from getting formally arrested or referred to probation during encounters with law enforcement. Human Impact Partners and the Los Angeles (LA) County Office of Youth Diversion and Development (YDD) partnered to develop this evaluation framework to assess and prevent racial inequities in this program.

Diversion is a promising practice for reducing youth involvement with the justice system but evidence suggests that, without a clear commitment to equity in design and oversight, diversion programs may contribute to further racial inequity. While there are various forms of diversion, this project focuses on community-based, pre-booking diversion for youth — the model adopted by LA County’s youth diversion planning committee.

What is pre-booking diversion?

Pre-booking youth diversion is a model of diversion in which a law enforcement officer refers a young person to a diversion program instead of recording a formal arrest or referring their case to probation. Officers agree not to record the arrest in the future as long as the young person completes a diversion program.

The Five Main Touchpoints in Pre-booking Diversion
  1. Getting stopped by a law enforcement officer
  2. Getting referred by law enforcement to a diversion program
  3. Getting enrolled in a diversion program
  4. Participating in and completing a diversion program
  5. Thriving after a program

Law enforcement agencies, diversion providers, and other participating systems may introduce or exacerbate racial inequities in the pre-booking diversion process at any of these points of interaction with youth. As institutions in LA County and beyond implement a range of diversion practices, it’s important to evaluate whether these practices are benefitting Black and Brown youth or are unintentionally funneling them into the justice system and negatively influencing their long-term health outcomes.

Ensuring racial equity requires measuring the outcomes of Black and Brown youth at each of the five touchpoints and comparing them to the outcomes of White youth. In this framework, we present metrics for assessing racial equity at each touchpoint.

We also document promising practices for ensuring racial equity at each touchpoint in pre-booking diversion. We developed these practices by speaking with experts, youth, and youth caretakers in LA County and by reviewing research articles and reports that describe and evaluate youth diversion programs and their outcomes.

Open the evaluation framework