DIVERSIONfirst connects youth who have committed their first non-violent, criminal occurrence to community and family supports, to help them build a foundation for a positive future away from crime. It’s a police-led program, which allows the Edmonton Police Service (EPS) to offer the youth and their supports a restorative justice approach, instead of a criminal charge.
DIVERSIONfirst is a partnership between the EPS, YMCA of Northern Alberta and Boys and Girls Club Big Brothers Big Sisters (BGCBigs). Together, and with a variety of other community agencies, we redirect youth by connecting them to organizations focused on improving the lives of youth and their families so they can begin accessing services they need through a customized support program.
Through the program, youth can identify areas in their life that may require more support, request guidance, or seek out an opportunity to better themselves. They then work toward repairing the harm they’ve caused. To do this, they fulfill a customized agreement plan that is youth focused. These agreement plans can include written and/or in-person apologies to victims, volunteer service and projects, and self-reflection projects that could include resume building, creative projects, job shadowing, skill development, art projects and more. Their agreement gives them a chance to make amends, become more pro-social, and make positive contributions to the community. DIVERSIONfirst helps youth recognize the connection between their behaviours and the harm caused to themselves, the community, family, and victim(s).
DIVERSIONfirst exists because we understand for many youths who commit a criminal act, there are underlying reasons for this action. We understand the earlier we can support young people, open doors, and connect them to community programs, we may be able to redirect their path to something positive. The DIVERSIONfirst Unit advocates for early prevention to help youth identify their missing supports to reduce youth involvement with the criminal justice system. Ideally, this will empower them to take charge of their lives and improve their access to community resources when needed.
How it’s different – We are interjecting before a charge is laid. Most programs are tailored to youths after they have been charged. We are providing the youth an opportunity for a timely response to their actions, accountability of their behaviour, celebrating their strengths and connecting them to their community. DIVERSIONfirst is a strength-based approach in addressing the underlying issues associated to their decision related to the criminal offense. We provide the youth with alternative solutions that gives them ownership over what they’ve done and what they can do in their lives to move forward.
What do the youths have to say about DIVERSIONfirst?
- “I learned to focus on myself and put myself first in the face of adversity.”
- “I have a better and safer resource for my stresses and pain.”