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Net-widening and the diversion of young people from court: A longitudinal analysis with implications for restorative justice.

Prichard, Jeremy
June 4, 2015

Source: (2010) Australian and New Zealand Journal of Criminology. 43(1):112-129.

Internationally, many youth justice systems aim to divert young people from court through informal mechanisms, such as police cautions and restorative conferences. Among other things, diversion avoids the potentially criminogenic effects of formal contact with the criminal justice system. However, in some instances, the sum of court appearances and diversionary procedures indicates an overall increase in the numbers of young people having contact (formal or informal) with the criminal justice system — a phenomenon known as net-widening. This article summarises previous debates about the risks of net-widening. It then presents results from analysis of over 50,000 police records pertaining to young people’s contact with the Tasmanian criminal justice system between 1991 and 2002. Across that decade, court appearances markedly reduced, while a corresponding increase in diversions was recorded. There was no evidence of net-widening. However, there was a significant increase in detention orders. Implications for policy and future research are considered. (excerpt)


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