Beyond Diversion: Philadelphia Program Diverts Young Adults Away from Felony Convictions and into Job Training and Education
Date:  01-24-2018

The Choice is Yours program uses mentoring instead of punishment to achieve optimal outcomes
From Vera Institute of Justice:

Nigel Bowe sits behind his desk and remembers the trouble he used to get into as a 14-year-old in Hampton, Virginia in the 1970s.

“I was kind of straddling the fence,” he says. He was hanging out with the wrong people, in the wrong places, doing things he shouldn’t have been doing. Bowe’s behavior could have led to a number of negative consequences, including arrest and incarceration. But he was lucky—a football star with rising aspirations to play in college and later the NFL, Bowe was surrounded by coaches and other adults who mentored him and kept him away from harm.

The NFL career didn’t pan out. But Bowe’s second dream—to mentor other young people and help them realize their full potential—is still alive and well. Bowe is program director for The Choice is Yours (TCY), a felony diversion program in Philadelphia that channels young people arrested for drug possession with intent to distribute away from jail and into education and job training services. Developed by the district attorney's office in partnership with the public defenders, TCY is available to people—mostly young men between the ages of 18 and 24—arrested on their first offense. Without TCY they would be facing a range of sentences, typically from 18 months’ probation to two years in custody. Conviction would come with a permanent felony record—making employment, housing assistance, and other social services difficult to obtain on release.

Bowe is an employee of JEVS Human Services, the social service organization that administers TCY and works with program clients. But he is also part of a larger support system—a family, as they call themselves—that is deeply committed to ensuring the young people entrusted to them are kept away from incarceration and instead afforded the skills necessary to successfully navigate life. Continue reading >>>