A “diversion alternative” is an option to address offenses by youth offenders outside of the formal juvenile justice system, through programs focused on anger management, crisis intervention, drug and alcohol education, or whatever such services may be necessary in a given case. Current Maryland law allows for intake officers to propose a diversion. Advocates for Children and Youth is pushing for amendments that would also allow judges to propose diversion, or else return a case to intake if an intake conference was never held. This approach makes sense as judges already dismiss so many cases that using a diversionary approach early will save resources, reduce stress and trauma to families and ensure speedier justice. Moreover, in cases where there was no intake conference, there would have been no opportunity to even consider diversion. By allowing judges the option to return a case to DJS for the purpose of holding an intake conference, the likelihood of the case being diverted is therefore increased.
This reform was not submitted as a bill in the 2016 General Assembly session, but ACY will continue to promote this idea and educated lawmakers on this issue.