Misdemeanor Diversion Programs
Misdemeanor Diversion Programs, or MDPs, are set in place so teenagers under 18 years old will have an alternative to going in the criminal system at a young age. This program is great for teenagers with first time minor offenses like simple assault, drug paraphernalia, and other offenses that aren’t worth blemishing a juvenile’s record. I feel like this is a great opportunity as long as it’s not abused by teenagers who just know that they’ll most likely get sent to a misdemeanor program rather than a charge. feel like MDPs are one of the other hundreds of initiatives that the court system can put in place to keep juveniles from getting a criminal record.
The pros of this program are that: it’s an alternative to actually getting charged at a young age, it doesn’t blemish your record, and you’ll get another chance after a stupid mistake where as an adult with the same or similar charges won’t get another chance. Anyone who gets involved in a program like this should be grateful that their local court system and community cares for their teenagers—we might take that for granted sometimes. The cons of this program are that some youth may abuse this program or may not get the actual charge experience and won’t learn the severity. Without learning the severity of getting in trouble with the law someone might just recidivate, but hopefully that doesn’t happen to anyone involved in this program.
Yesterday, members of Kinston Teens attended a meeting focused on starting a misdemeanor diversion program in Lenoir County. The meeting was hosted by Judge Beth Heath, who is a district court judge from Lenoir County, and Judge J.H. Corpening, a district court judge from New Hanover and Pender counties. In New Hanover County, Judge Corpening helped spearhead the creation of a misdemeanor diversion program there, which was one of first of its kind in North Carolina.
The meeting took place at the Lenoir County Courthouse in the District Civil Court room. There were a lot of important figures from the community there, such as Superintendent Brent Williams and Chief Alonzo Jaynes, so that tells me that there’s a lot of heart and compassion for the youth coming from these adults with high roles here. The discussion was about why we’d need certain things included in our MDP to better suit Lenoir County and where exactly we would start. There was some talk about beginning the program just in the schools by not charging them for offenses that occur at school, but just referring them to the program. Following starting the program in the schools, it could be implemented widespread in the community. One reason for this idea is because school already has people hired that do this type of work, if you want to make it community-wide then you’ll have to create new positions, find money to pay, and get permission from different agencies.
I think Lenoir County having a misdemeanor program would be great. It shows their compassion and it’ll give the youth hope so they’ll know it’s not over when they get caught up in a silly mistake that’s not even very serious but it’s serious enough to charge. I like how this program won’t affect their chances at getting into colleges, joining the military, or applying for a job where as a charge would. This program really saves the lives of the juvenile participants.
RaShawn Baker is a 17-year-old rising senior from North Lenoir High School. RaShawn currently serves as a Community Development & Engagement Intern for Kinston Teens and is a participant in our Youth E.L.E. Program. This summer, Rashawn assists in the operations and management of our Youth Leadership & Resource Center, Kinston Teens Vision Garden and Adopt-a-Vacant Lot Program.