Research Report A Process Evaluation of the Misdemeanor Diversion Program in Durham County, North Carolina
Will Engelhardt, Storm Ervin, Daniel Lawrence, Rudy Perez
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Before its Raise the Age legislation in December 2019, North Carolina was one of the few states that still automatically charged 16- and 17-year-olds as adults in its justice system. In 2013, a group of stakeholders from Durham County, North Carolina, started the Misdemeanor Diversion Program (MDP) to prevent 16- and 17-year-olds from entering the justice system. The first of its kind in North Carolina, the program began in March 2014 and expanded over time to include people of all ages. In 2020 and 2021, with support from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation’s Safety and Justice Challenge Research Consortium, the Urban Institute conducted an in-depth process evaluation of the MDP. Our process evaluation (external link) yielded four key takeaways for jurisdictions interested in replicating the MDP. First, buy-in from law enforcement is critical because it is needed to start the diversion process. Second, support from local leaders, such as elected officials, will help develop local law enforcement buy-in and support. Third, qualified program staff with deep community connections are essential. And fourth, a philosophy of keeping people out of the justice system altogether will lead to increased participant satisfaction and reduce collateral consequences associated with any justice involvement. This process evaluation was one component of Urban’s research on the MDP; the research team is also conducting an outcome evaluation that will be described in a fall 2021 report.

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Research Areas Crime, justice, and safety
Policy Centers Justice Policy Center