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How New Las Vegas Diversion Court Helps At Risk-Minority Teens

October 10, 2012 06:44:00 am
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Las Vegas' year-old "diversion court" is not a true courtroom, aside from its location. It’s an environment where community agencies, treatment providers, and mentors come together to support at-risk teens, particularly minorities who enter the justice system in disproportionate numbers, says the Las Vegas Sun. “This is a global-village type of thing,” says Judge Stephen Compan. Teenagers enter voluntarily, or at least at the direction of their parents who accompany them. The teens aren't hardened criminals, but that’s why they're here: They’ve received a few citations — maybe for alcohol or drugs, petty larceny or a curfew violation — enough to spark concern. If the pattern continues, there’s a good chance an arrest will follow and, with it, a formal charge, said Family Court Judge William Voy.

When that happens, officials know there’s a greater likelihood it will be a minority entering the juvenile detention center. Last year, about 41 percent of juveniles arrested in Clark County were Hispanic and 26 percent were black. Compare that with the demographics of the school system: Only 12 percent of the student population is black, while 43 percent is Hispanic. “They’re coming to us in disproportionate numbers,” Voy said. “We’re in the hole to begin with.” The program emphasizes an honest, open environment, where the teens can share their difficulties and Compan and mentors can offer guidance. “It’s kind of a soft, cuddly approach in there, but it’s really working,” said Compan, who runs diversion court.

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