With the Law

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Our Response

Through St. Paul Youth Services’ Pre-Charge Diversion Program we offer a restorative justice approach, helping youth who’ve been charged with a minor offense pursue a more productive path and stay out of the juvenile justice system.

They make restitution to their victims, get connected to supportive community resources, and are held accountable for their actions in a way that helps them grow.

97% of our Diversion program participants did not have another arrest in the following six months.


  • Youth of color are more likely than their white peers to be arrested for a delinquency offense, sent to detention facilities, and prosecuted as adults
  • Youth in prison are more likely than peers to drop out of school and have difficulty finding work
  • About 60% of incarcerated youth were released without a place to live; only a third received help securing housing
  • The earlier a child commits a crime, the more likely the child will become a chronic and violent offender

Our Pre-Charge Diversion program offers an alternative to juvenile court for a range of first time offenses such as shoplifting, property damage, disorderly conduct, and curfew violations and gives youth a chance to learn from their mistakes.

We keep young people out of the criminal justice system, avoiding the detrimental impacts incarceration has on their lives and on our community – in terms of education, employment, homelessness, and other measures of well-being.

Our program gives youth a second chance by helping them understand how their choices affect their goals, their families, and their community and restoring them to a more positive path. Through a highly-effective combination of counseling and community service, we hold young people accountable for their actions, while helping them and their families develop tools to make better decisions in the future and avoid further criminal activity.

254 young people went through our Diversion program in 2014. To date, just 1 young person has been re-arrested.

One Child’s Story

Jenetta began living with her mother after her parents’ divorce.  There she encountered her mother’s repeated angry outbursts and overwhelming verbal and emotional abuse.  Demoralized, Jenetta found refuge with her father.  However, her father had a meticulous and perfectionist parenting style that left her feeling boxed in and resentful at his high expectations.   As a result, she often felt like a failure and turned to friends and marijuana for comfort, she lost interest in school.  Police caught Jenetta, age 17, in a drug sting at a local beach and referred her to Diversion.

I recognized that Jenetta needed positive messages to boost her self esteem and her father could use some help in understanding how to encourage her in making positive and independent decisions.  I conducted a chemical dependency risk assessment and recommended that Jenetta get a chemical dependency evaluation.  Jenetta made a positive decision to carry out the evaluation and comply with the treatment program.  Jenetta, her father and I had several conversations on ways they could communicate better with each other.  As a result, Jenetta recognized both her good qualities and her responsibilities; her self-esteem grew, helped by her father’s new appreciation, trust and acceptance of his daughter’s healthy decision-making process.

Jenetta completed all three parts of the restorative justice program: the initial visit with a Diversion Counselor, the group meeting with other first time offenders and the 15 hours of community service-in her case at a community recreation center tutoring younger children.  When she came to Diversion, Jenetta was feeling the doors to opportunities were closed; she now saw doors opening to making better choices and deal with life’s stresses and conflicts. Submitted by Nate Browning, Counselor