Long Beach is set to launch a diversion pilot program this month that offers young offenders the choice to complete occupational training, mentoring or educational programs in lieu of facing criminal prosecution.
Long Beach City Councilman Rex Richardson teamed up with Long Beach City Prosecutor Doug Haubert and the Pacific Gateway Workforce Investment Network (PGWIN) to develop the Promising Adults, Tomorrow’s Hope (PATH) initiative for youth between 16 and 24 who committed a minor offense.
"Instead of only considering traditional criminal punishment, in some cases we need to look at rehabilitative methods," said Haubert in a press release. "Prosecutors need options like effective interventions for first-time, nonviolent offenders."
The program uses a data-driven approach based on adolescent brain development research to steer young offenders away from prison and into programs tailored to their specific issues.
Young adults make up the largest segment of Long Beach's population, according to PGWIN, and the 20.7 percent unemployment rate among adults 20 to 24 is more than triple the overall rate in the city. Young people in Long Beach are also more susceptible to violent crime, as 50 percent of murder victims and 43 percent of assault-with-a-deadly-weapon victims are 18 to 29, according to data from the Long Beach Police Department.
Richardson told KPCC that the city's aim is to use positive intervention to shape young minds, which aren't fully developed until the age of 25.
"Young adults are more susceptible to peer pressure, more prone to risk-taking and impulsive behavior, they’re more likely to misread social cues and dramatically overreact," Richardson said. "And so all of those things can lead to criminal activity, which can have dire long-range consequences affecting their ability to gain employment, complete their education and pursue a range of other important life goals."
PATH is funded by the Long Beach City Prosecutor’s Office and a grant from the California Endowment. It's expected to cost $120,000 to implement.