The Youth Justice Project works to support innovative partnerships and programs that keep youth out of the court system. In North Carolina, an example of this is our work with pre-arrest Misdemeanor Diversion Programs (MDPs). MDPs are diversion programs for 16- and 17-year olds that operate pre-arrest and pre-charge, before a child has to face all of the pitfalls of entering the adult criminal system.
The need for pre-arrest MDPs is due to the fact that, in North Carolina, all 16- and 17-year olds are automatically treated as adults in the criminal system with no opportunity to enter the juvenile justice system. This is the case regardless of the severity of the offense or the individual circumstances of the incident. Unfortunately, this means that every year, thousands of North Carolina youth are referred to the adult criminal system for first-time, low-level offenses. Once in the adult system, youth face many direct and indirect consequences that impede their access to education, employment, and housing and may ultimately harm their ability to be a productive member of society.
While changing the law to include more 16- and 17-year olds in the juvenile system is a clear long-term solution to addressing this problem, an interim solution has been the establishment of pre-arrest MDPs by communities concerned about the overcriminalization of young people. As of October 2016, 5 counties in North Carolina (Durham, Wake, Orange, Cumberland, and New Hanover) had an MDP.
To learn more about MDPs, check out our Issue Brief.
How does Youth Justice Project support MDPs?
The Youth Justice Project supports existing MDPs and communities interested in developing their own MDP by providing information and resources on the importance of keeping youth out of the adult court system, best practices and the MDP model, and other youth justice issues. YJP staff have also presented to MDP youth and prepared youth-friendly resources on the collateral consequences of an adult conviction and efforts to raise the age of juvenile court jurisdiction.
In October 2016, the Youth Justice Project is hosting a Misdemeanor Diversion Program Conference that will bring together over 80 diverse stakeholders from across the state. The goal of the conference is to provide information and support to stakeholders interested in starting an MDP in their community, as well as to help support existing MDPs in their implementation and expansion efforts.
For more resources and information on MDPs, contact us.