| ||Literature Coverage Dates||Number of Studies||Number of Study Participants|
|Meta-Analysis 1||1982 - 2010||28||19301|
|Meta-Analysis 2||1972 - 2010||45||78640|
Schwalbe and colleagues (2012) evaluated the effectiveness of diversion programs for youthful offenders by identifying studies through an electronic search of PsycINFO, Web of Science,
and the National Criminal Justice Reference Service database, as well as the Web sites of private research and public policy organizations. Key words such as diversion, diverted, youth court, restorative justice, victim–offender mediation, drug court, mental health court,
and first-time offender
were used to locate studies. Studies were included in the analysis if they met the following inclusion criteria: 1) experimental or quasi-experimental design comparing at least one active treatment condition against a minimal intervention (e.g., warn and release) or standard justice processing condition; 2) published between 1980 and 2011; 3) served youths under 18 who were referred to diversion by law enforcement or the juvenile justice system before adjudication. Studies were excluded if the comparison group consisted only of treatment refusers because of inherent selection-bias limitations.
Twenty-eight studies were included in the analysis. The 28 studies included more than 19,000 youths and yielded 57 comparisons (some studies reported multiple comparisons because they included two types of comparisons groups [e.g., standard court and minimal intervention] or they included multiple experimental conditions). The ages of the study samples ranged from 12.6 to 15.9 years old. Almost 88 percent of the samples were male, and 91.5 percent were white (the other 8.5 percent of races/ethnicities were not provided). Fourteen studies used random assignment, and the other 14 were quasi-experimental designs. The majority of the studies were published in the 2000s, with only two published in the 1990s and eight published in the 1980s. Sixteen studies restricted eligibility into the program to minor or first-time offenders, while in three of the studies eligibility was restricted to high-risk, chronic, or serious offenders. Two studies allowed the police or county attorneys to establish eligibility, and in one study having a substance use problem was the sole eligibility criteria. The other six studies did not report their eligibility criteria. Youths in the diversion studies received services such as case management, individual treatment with or without case management, and family treatment with or without case management, or they participated in diversion programs such as youth court and restorative justice.
Odds ratios comparing experimental and nonexperimental conditions were calculated from event rates for discrete outcomes (e.g., rearrests) and transformed to a linear scale for analysis. Random effects models were employed to calculate inverse-variance weighted effect sizes, correct standard errors for sampling error variance, and to calculate credibility intervals.Meta-Analysis 2
Wilson and Hoge (2012) compared the impact of participation in diversion with traditional processing on reoffending rates of youths. A comprehensive search of various databases and journals (such as PsycINFO, Web of Science, Criminal Justice Abstracts,
and Dissertation Abstracts
) was conducted. To be included in the review, studies had to examine the recidivism rate of youth offenders referred to a diversion program compared with those youths who went through traditional processing in the juvenile justice system. Diversion was defined broadly as any program that allows the youth to avoid 1) official processing through a screening process before the laying of a charge; 2) full prosecution after the laying of a charge; or 3) a traditional sentence (e.g., imprisonment) after conviction. The types of diversion programs included victim–offender mediation, community service work, restitution, or treatment/education programs. A study was excluded if any of the programs were a condition of a traditional disposition, such as probation. Studies on teen courts and drug treatment courts were also excluded, as were studies that evaluated a diversion program that accepted referrals from educational institutions for noncriminal behavior, such as repeatedly missing class.
Forty-five studies (reporting on 73 diversion programs) met the criteria for inclusion. The studies assessed 14,573 diverted youths and 18,840 youths processed by the traditional juvenile justice system. Nineteen studies were published in a peer-reviewed journal, and the other 26 studies were found in other forms of dissemination, such as book chapters, dissertations, and government reports. The majority of the studies (34) came from the United States, while 6 studies came from Australia, 3 from Canada, and 2 from other countries. The average age of the diversion samples for all the programs was 14.72 years (ranging from 12 to 18 years). The samples were more likely to be male and white (no other information about gender or race/ethnicity was provided).
Study quality was coded as successful, somewhat successful,
An example of a successful study is a well-executed random assignment design. An example of a somewhat successful design is a matched design with no verification of group equivalency or the use of a convenience sample with the controlling of demographic and risk-related variables. An example of a nonsuccessful study is if there were clear differences in risk levels between the treatment and comparison groups and little to no attempt to control for these differences. The vast majority of studies were coded as either somewhat successful or nonsuccessful, with only a small number (six) coded as successful.
Effect sizes (e.g., odds ratios) were calculated to measure program effectiveness. Effect sizes were also weighted by the inverse of the variance, allowing studies with larger sample sizes to contribute more to the overall effect size than studies with smaller sample sizes. The results were presented for both fixed and random effects models, but the random effects model was the focus of this review.