A Project to Promote Juvenile Pretrial Diversion among Justice-Involved Youths in Thailand: An Evaluation
This research aimed to evaluate the Thai Department of Juvenile Observation and Protection (DJOP)'s Project to Promote Juvenile Pretrial Diversion among Justice-Involved Youths in Thailand, specifically in the utilization and application of the project's outputs and any impact it had on areas such as staff training, stakeholders’ awareness, operational standards, and shifts in policy. Qualitative data was acquired through documentary research, in-depth interviews with 20 informants, and focus group interviews with 18 youth justice practitioners. The data was validated and analyzed using investigator and data source triangulation. Findings suggested that arrested juveniles acquired several benefits by participating in the DJOP’s diversion program. Apart from giving young offenders second chances and preserving the court's resources, advantages of the diversion program included an increase in parents' or guardians’ involvement, more opportunities for victim participation and restitution, and a reduction in recidivism. In addition, participating in family and community group conferencing (FCGC), a core activity in the diversion process, decreased conflict among community members, promoted reintegration, and strengthened the sense of responsibility and agency of young offenders and their parents. We identified three key factors for successful diversion and reintegration: parents/caretakers’ capability and willingness to supervise their children, a cooperative community, and the youth’s readiness and eagerness to abide by rehabilitative plans developed during FCGC. Our study indicated that offender readiness was particularly crucial; most diversion attempts failed due to the juveniles’ lack of self-motivation. This research contributed to the ongoing discussion about juvenile diversion and restorative practices by providing the field with contextual findings specific to Thailand, much-needed evidence, and recommendations regarding program integrity and real-world implementation of restorative concepts. Suggestions on future project management and program evaluation were also discussed.
Keywords: program evaluation, young offender, juvenile justice, pretrial diversion, Thai youth justice system.
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