U.S. flag

An official website of the United States government, Department of Justice.

Adolescent Diversion Project



Volunteer college students serve as change agents in the Adolescent Diversion Project. The students are trained in a behavioral change model that principally employs one-on-one behavioral contracts with court-diverted youth, with rewards incorporated into written contracts between youth and significant others in their environment. The goal of the program is to provide each young person with a program of services tailored to his or her needs and to help the youth avoid further involvement with the juvenile justice system. A volunteer works six to eight hours per week for 18 weeks with a youth, and additional time is spent with the parent(s) and significant others in the youth’s life. The students also serve as advocates for community resources. These resources may include getting a job, working on school issues, seeking activities for the youth’s free time, etc. The goal is to teach the youth how to access these community resources after program participation has ended.

An evaluation of the program showed that it was effective in reducing officially recorded recidivism but not self-reported delinquency. However, the program has proved to be very cost-beneficial (Washington State Institute for Public Policy, 2004).


Crime Solutions: Effective

Risk Factors


General delinquency involvement

High alcohol/drug use


Poor parental supervision (control, monitoring, and child management)


Frequent truancy/absences/suspensions; expelled from school; dropping out of school

Poor school attitude/performance; academic failure


Association with antisocial/aggressive/delinquent peers; high peer delinquency


Dr. William S. Davidson
Michigan State Diversion Program
317 Physics Road, 132 Psychology Building
East Lansing, MI 48824–1116
Phone: (517) 353-5015
Fax: (517) 432-2476
E-mail: [email protected]
Web site: http://msuap.psy.msu.edu/


Davidson, W. S.; Redner, R.; Blakely, C. H.; Mitchell, C. M.; and Emshoff, J. G. (1987). “Diversion of Juvenile Offenders: An Experimental Comparison.” Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 55:68–75.

Davidson, W. S.; Redner, R.; and Amdur, R. (1990). Alternative Treatments for Troubled Youth: The Case of Diversion From the Justice System. New York: Plenum Press.

Washington State Institute for Public Policy. (2004). Benefits and Costs of Prevention and Early Intervention Programs for Youth. Olympia, WA: Washington State Institute for Public Policy. (http://www.wsipp.wa.gov/)

Smith, E. P., Wolf, A.M, Cantillon, D. M., Thomas, O., Davison, W. S. (2004). The Adolescent Diversion Project: 25 Years of Research on an Ecological Model of Intervention. Prevention & Intervention in the Community 27, 29–47.

Date Created: April 7, 2021