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Toolkit on Diversion and Alternatives to Detention




• Types of diversion programmes
• Sample project descriptions for diversion
1. Types of diversion programmes

According to the CRC: "Whenever appropriate and desirable, measures for dealing with such children without resorting to judicial proceedings, providing that human rights and legal safeguards are fully respected" (Art. 40.3.(b)).
According to additional sources:[1]

There are a variety of different measures that may be used as part of a diversion agreement in formal, informal and traditional systems. In most countries, diversion may involve a combination of one or more of the following measures:
     • No action. [2]
     • Formal or informal caution or warning: cautions can be given directly to the child on the spot, or more formally in the presence of parents. For the majority of first-time offenders, getting caught and warned by the police or other cultural authorities is sufficient to deter them from committing any further crimes.
     • Written or verbal apology to the victim/survivor.
     • Written essay on the effects of the crime committed to help the child gain insight into the consequences of his/her behaviour.
     • Behavioural contracts, generally with conditions such as a curfew and agreements not to associate with specified negative peers.
     • Curfew order: imposes a restriction on a child's liberty between specified hours (usually at night) for a specified period of time where the child has to remain at a specified location/address, e.g. curfew between 9pm to 7am for 3 months at a named NGO night shelter.
     • Agreement to attend school and/or vocational skills training. In some cases, this may require support from local authorities or other agencies to provide the assistance necessary (such as school fee reduction or exemption) to allow the child to return to school or gain access to skills training. In some countries "regular school attendance" is both a diversion option and an alternative sentence.
     • Community service work: requires the child to work a specified number of hours for free in some way that benefits the community. The purpose is to give the child the opportunity to make amends for the crime by contributing something of value to either the victim/survivor or the community in general.
     • Compensation or restitution to the victim/survivor, ideally including an option for non-monetary forms of restitution where the child/family cannot afford to pay.
     • Referral to a peer education / youth mentoring programme.
     • Referral to counselling or therapeutic treatment for drug, alcohol or other substance addiction, or sex offending.
     • Participation in life skills or other competency development programme. These are specialised programmes designed to help children address the underlying problems that contributed to the offending behaviour. Issues commonly addressed include responsible decision-making, communication skills, problem-solving, conflict resolution, developing self-esteem, and anger management. These programmes may involve work with families, as well as the child.

Which measures, or combination of measures, are appropriate in each individual case generally depends on the nature and seriousness of the crime, the child’s background and circumstances, as well as what programmes are available in the community. In some cases, the diverting official him/her self decides what type of diversionary measure should be used. In other countries, the decision about which diversionary measure(s) is most appropriate is decided through a restorative justice process or through assessment by a social worker/probation officer or multi-disciplinary team.

An assessment of the child should be promoted in order to identify underlying family problems which need to be addressed in order to prevent re-offending. Imposition of diversion measures without such an assessment is unlikely to address the causes of recidivism.
Informal and traditional systems can offer flexible and locally-appropriate diversion solutions. Practitioners should therefore explore ways in which to work with such systems to ensure that child rights are safeguarded. This could include, for example, sensitisation and capacity building of private security personnel who would otherwise make citizen's arrests of children or use inappropriate diversion options such as corporal punishment. 
2. Sample project descriptions for diversion
The document here provides a brief summary of 3 sample diversion projects from the Philippines, South Africa and Thailand.

Download sample project descriptions for diversion
1. Adapted from UNICEF EAPRO, DRAFT Legal System Building Tool – Justice for Children (internal document, not for circulation), p32.
2. "In many cases, non-intervention would be the best response. Thus, diversion at the outset and without
referral to alternative (social) services may be the optimal response. This is especially the case where the offence is of a non-serious nature and where the family, the school or other informal social control institutions have already reacted, or are likely to react, in an appropriate and constructive manner." Commentary to Beijing Rule 11.

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