Ensuring the fair treatment of all youth

The National League of Cities supports and informs city leaders and stakeholders in improving public safety and reforming the juvenile justice system to encourage the use of evidence-based practices and ensure the fair treatment of all youth. By identifying proven local practices and translating those into concrete steps cities can take, we work to empower cities to take a more comprehensive role in the national movement to improve the juvenile justice system.

Local law enforcement is usually the first point of contact between a city’s young people and the juvenile justice system. Police officers have multiple opportunities to divert youth away from arrest. City leaders can increase public safety and improve outcomes for young residents by helping police develop objective decision-making tools to divert youth from the system in lieu of arrest for low-level offenses.

Diversion programs, which are often developed by municipal police departments, are systems that allow low-level offenders to avoid criminal charges and convictions. These programs hold youth accountable for offenses while keeping them in school and in their communities and providing access to services that address unmet needs such as mental health services and family support.

City leaders and juvenile justice reformers alike want to create juvenile justice systems that are evidence-based, fair and more effectively hold youth accountable and help them become successful, productive adults. Key principles in this work include:

  • Ensure Fair Treatment for All Youth
  • Improve Public Safety Based on Evidence of Effectiveness
  • Increase Efficiency and Cost-Savings through Rational Reforms
  • Base Policies on the Developmental Realities of Adolescence


  • https://www.nlc.org/resource/toward-an-expanded-city-role-supporting-youth-in-the-deep-end-of-the-juvenile-justice
  • https://www.nlc.org/sites/default/files/users/user75/JJ%20mayoral%20reform-final-112917.pdf
  • https://www.nlc.org/resource/how-city-leaders-can-draw-upon-adolescent-development-research-findings-to-provide-a
  • https://www.nlc.org/resource/alternatives-to-arrest-for-young-people
  • https://www.nlc.org/resource/increasing-public-safety-and-improving-outcomes-for-youth-through-juvenile-justice-reform
  • https://www.nlc.org/alternatives-to-arrest-for-young-people-0