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From Punishment to Control: Assessing Juvenile Diversion in China

  • Enshen Li and Mingyue Su


China’s juvenile justice system has grown and changed substantially since the 1980s. While considerable research focuses on institutional treatment of juvenile delinquents, little attention has been paid to the diversion processes and measures that allow troubled juveniles to be directed away from the formal justice system. Through a comparison with juvenile justice in the United States, this article aims to investigate the development of the juvenile diversion framework in China. We argue that despite their similar efforts to divert juvenile delinquents from traditional court proceedings, in practice China’s diversionary arrangements diverge from those of their US counterparts. Unlike in the United States, Chinese juvenile diversion does not operate according to welfarist or restorative models. Rather, juvenile diversion in China is a managerialism-driven scheme that rests on two key pillars: institutional diversion, which imposes punishment and control on juvenile offenders pursuant to their level of offending and dangerousness, and noninstitutional diversion, which revolves around risk-based management and correction through community-level interventions. We conclude that China’s distinctive sociolegal culture and political priorities have shaped a practice that appears to be at odds with the officially advertised narratives of the state’s juvenile justice policy.


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From Punishment to Control: Assessing Juvenile Diversion in China

  • Enshen Li and Mingyue Su


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