Tucson Youth Detention Diversion

What are the target goals and outcomes?

Data compiled by the Tucson Police Department (TPD) indicated a pattern of decision making by patrol offices that resulted in more arrests of youth of color rather than referrals to specialized diversion programs as an alternative. The Department averaged 5 youth detention transportation events per day and sought to reduce this number. Through the implementation of a validated risk assessment instrument, TPD reduced the average of 5 detentions per day to an average 2 detentions. As a result of detention reduction, TPD now has the ability to redirect resources that were previously used on transporting youth upon arrest. In addition to reducing the number of youth arrests, Tucson also has experienced a positive culture shift across the entire police department.

Strategy Method

The validated risk assessment tool is an objective decision-making instrument that Tucson's patrol officers use before arresting youth. At the scene of arrest an officer will call juvenile probation officers, who check the youth's juvenile record and administer the first three questions of the instrument. The outcome of these calls and questions determines whether the officer issues a paper referral to diversion services or takes the youth into custody.

Who are the partners?

This innovation was part of the local Disproportionate Minority Contact (DMC) Intervention Model Project. Partners on the project include Pima County juvenile court, community organizations (Chicanos Por La Causa and Lutheran Social Services among others), schools and school districts, city law enforcement, a behavioral health agency and community members with expert assistance from the W. Haywood Burns Institute. (The Institute takes a restorative justice approach toward the goal of eliminating ethnic and racial disparities by building a community-centered responses  to youthful misbehavior.)

Other Details

The DMC Intervention Model Project received funding from the Arizona Governor's Office for Children, Youth and Families. There are two phases of the project. Phase I (2010-12) focuses on studying data regarding decision points in juvenile justice system and creating working groups to discuss the decision points and what are the causes. Phase II (2012-present), focuses on recommendation implementation and project evaluation.  



Increasing Public Safety and Improving Outcomes for Youth through Juvenile Justice Reform

Pima County Juvenile Court Center


DMC Intervention Model Project



NLC Staff Contact

Laura Furr

Senior Associate, Juvenile Justice