ORANGE COUNTY, NC (April 11, 2016)—The Orange County Criminal Justice Resource Office and criminal justice stakeholders in Orange County are pleased to announce a new Misdemeanor Diversion Program (MDP) for eligible 16 and 17-year-old first time offenders.

The purpose of the MDP is to divert first time arrests or citations for eligible misdemeanor charges. Rather than issuing a citation or making an arrest where probable cause exists, law enforcement officers in Orange County will instead issue a youth citation that will initiate the diversionary process by directing the youth to contact the MDP Coordinator.

The direct and indirect consequences of an arrest and prosecution in the adult criminal justice system are significant. MDP provides an opportunity for education about these consequences, but will also require the referred individuals to complete 10 hours of a diversion plan involving community service or programming designed to address identified needs.

Referrals by Orange County law enforcement to MDP will be accepted beginning on Friday, April 15. The first monthly court session for referred youth will be at 4:00 p.m. on June 1, 2016, in Hillsborough.

District Judge James (Jay) Bryan will preside over the monthly court sessions, along with Assistant District Attorney Jeff Nieman and Assistant Public Defender Dana Graves. The public is welcome to attend the court sessions.

“I appreciate that Orange County has nurtured long-standing as well as developing services in the areas of mental health, substance use, literacy, youth-support, mediation and skill-building to address the needs of these court participants as part of their diversion,” said Judge Bryan.

The Orange County MDP is modeled after the innovative Durham MDP, created in 2014 by Chief District Court Judge Morey. Court representatives, community members and law enforcement have been working since late 2014 to design and implement the Orange County MDP.

“I am very excited to see the Orange County Misdemeanor Diversion Program getting off the ground.  As North Carolina is one of only two states that prosecute 16 and 17 year olds as adults, a mistake that is made by a young person can follow him or her into adulthood,” said Chapel Hill Police Chief Chris Blue.  “I’m proud to join my fellow criminal justice partners from across Orange County in developing and supporting this progressive, compassionate, and common-sense program. This is what our communities expect of us and I’m honored to be a part of it.”

The Orange County MDP and the program coordinator will be assisted by law enforcement liaisons from the Sheriff’s Office and the Chapel Hill Police Department and a youth programs administrator:

Amy Efland, Orange County Sheriff’s Office, MDP Law Enforcement Liaison.

Michelle Guarino, Chapel Hill Police Department, MDP Law Enforcement Liaison.

Kate Giduz, Volunteers for Youth, Youth Programs Administrator.

For more information about the MDP, please contact MDP Coordinator and Orange County Criminal Justice Resource Manager Caitlin Fenhagen at 919.245.2303.