There was a
time in the past where a teenage house party ended with a stern talking to by
police and maybe some community service if deemed necessary. The state of New
Jersey, like most states around the country, has programs in place to work for
teens in high risk situations to help redirect their futures instead of using
the most tough punishment first.
But in the
years 2014 through 2016, 60,000 juveniles were arrested and only 6% of them
were offered diversion programs, known as “statehouse adjustments”.
programs were first introduced in 2005 and allowed law enforcement agencies the
option to let young offenders off the hook with a community service, verbal
warnings, drug counseling or other minor conditions.
officer gives an adolescent a verbal warning instead of trudging them into the station,
it’s called a “curbside warning”. Reprimands that happen at the station and include
conditions like community service are called “stationhouse adjustments”
commissioned by the American Civil Liberties Union has now found that some law
enforcement agencies in New Jersey are not using these options, and instead
charge thousands of young offenders are being held to criminal charges for
want to keep kids out of the system, we want to empower and encourage them,”
said Portia Allen-Kyle, a fellow at the ACLU and one of the authors of the
study. “We want to help them learn from their experiences, and ultimately make,
perhaps, different decisions moving forward.”
little young offenders are offered a second chance for change. In 2014 only around
10% of the states 24,306 juvenile arrests were allowed into diversion programs
or “statehouse adjustments”. In 2015, even less were given the option, at 7% of
juveniles were offered and accepted the statehouse adjustment. In 2016 the
percentage further declined to only 6%
the 17 counties in New Jersey state and sent their data to the ACLU, 112 police
departments didn’t even have a single “stationhouse adjustment” or another
diversion program over the 3 years that they were studied. Four of the
counties, Essex, Warren, Monmouth, and Camden did not even submit their
quarterly reports on the number of adjustments that were offered. This means
they either didn’t use the diversion programs at all or didn’t submit their
reports to the county prosecutors’ office.
The programs being used happened in
and Atlantic counties, with the highest number of diversionary or statehouse
adjustments reported. More than 670 juveniles were given a second chance over
the 3 year study period.
Township in Mercer County and Hamilton Township in Atlantic county were at the top
of the list, with a reported 250 stationhouse adjustments.
least amount of diversions offered came from Sussex, Hunterdon, Burlington,
Morris, Passaic, Husdon and Salem counties.
also showed black children were offered fewer chances at a second chance.
Of the 28.3% of black juvenile drug arrests in
2015, only 11.3% were offered diversionary programs for drug, tobacco and
adolescents were nearly 70% of the juvenile drug arrests but were offered more
than 75% of the diversion programs for drug, tobacco and alcohol offenses in
the 1,400 curfew and loitering arrests made in 2015 more than 60% of them were
young black teenagers. Only 13 diversionary programs were given that year, to
just 3 black teenagers.
want to start a new directive for diversionary programs that would make it the default
option for young persons committing minor crimes. This would be held through the
state attorney’s office. They also recommend:
submittal of data after each juvenile arrest so that the state would have a
more up to date and transparent look at how the programs are working.
officers in their departments should be trained to provide these programs.
“We really just want people to know that
if kids come in contact with law enforcement, you can ask for an alternative,”
Allen-Kyle said. “We want kids and parents to know their rights and we want
people to feel empowered to offer these alternatives to life in the criminal