In 2021, the District Attorney’s Office began a juvenile justice reform initiative designed to keep young people completely out of the criminal justice system while addressing the underlying cause of their harmful behavior.

The Juvenile Diversion Initiative (JDI) is a county wide early intervention program that prioritizes diversion options for youth instead of filing criminal charges. The goal of JDI is to reduce the number of youth who enter the juvenile justice system, engage the community and stakeholders in the youth’s rehabilitation, and address the causes of the youth’s unsafe behaviors while at the same time fostering accountability to crime victims and community.

San Diego County youth have the opportunity to participate in JDI with their family or caregiver and identify their needs and gain access services to address any contributing factors to harmful behavior. Youth in JDI who successfully complete the program leave with an understanding of the impact of their choices and avoid permanent and negative outcomes related to the formal criminal justice system, including stigma, labeling and having a criminal record.

“Data shows that most young people who come into contact with the juvenile justice system only once and never get into trouble again. If we can redirect those juveniles from the very start, it spares them the negative effects of having a criminal record and gives them a better chance at success in the future. All youth have the capacity to change and grow from their mistakes and providing them with resources and opportunities in the communities in which they live, provides the best outcome for those youth.”

-Summer Stephan, San Diego County District Attorney

JDI provides youth facing a misdemeanor or felony charge the option to participate in diversion before charges are filed as an alternative to prosecution and to avoid future negative outcomes associated with formal proceedings. An additional benefit of JDI is the anticipated reduction in formal court proceedings, freeing up limited resources and services for high-risk youth in need of more intensive rehabilitative services.

The DA’s Juvenile Diversion Initiative program is available for youth between the ages of 12 and 18 who commit misdemeanor and many felony offenses except for those offenses listed in Welfare & Institution Code section 707(b).

The program provides comprehensive therapeutic services, pro-social skill building opportunities, educational support as well as restorative justice community conferencing to ensure participants are supported and the needs of victims are addressed. Participation is a voluntary process, and upon completion the diverted youth will have the opportunity to have their arrest record sealed.

To see if a juvenile is eligible for the Juvenile Diversion Initiative, contact (858) 694-4250 or