On Friday afternoon, courtroom leaders and advocates from around the state gathered in Durham to hear how Durham, Orange, and Wake counties run their misdemeanor diversion programs and how they could implement programs of their own.
Misdemeanor diversion programs allow young people to have a second chance at a clean record if they've been arrested for first-time, low-level offenses. Since the program began in Durham in 2014, the county has helped 187 teens successfully complete the program (a 98 percent completion rate). Since October 2015, eighteen-to-twenty-one-year-olds have had a separate program, with forty-five people completing it—a 100 percent completion rate. Orange County started its program in April 2016; Wake County's is school-based, meaning school resources officers recommend students to enter the program, not officers out in the field.
During a panel discussion hosted by the Southern Coalition for Social Justice, the Youth Justice Project, and the Southern Education Foundation, chief district court judge (and INDY Citizen Award winner) Marcia Morey said there was some skepticism from law enforcement when the idea was first presented, but they eventually warmed to the idea.
"There has to be compromise," Morey said. "There was give and take everywhere. You have to have committed people to come together and say, 'Yes, let's do it.'" As for other pushback she received: "They were all overruled. I didn't say, 'Would you like to do this?' [It was] 'We're going to do this.'"