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Orange County launches program to help young, first-time offenders

Posted April 20
Updated April 21

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— Orange County has launched a program to give young criminal offenders a second chance in hopes that it will help reduce crime.

"I see the same folks come into court almost every day," said Orange County Sheriff Charles Blackwood. "The same faces are in and out of the courthouse."

Blackwood has walked the halls of the Orange County Courthouse for 37 years. He said he was bothered by the number of youth that fell into the system before they graduated high school.

Youth investigator Andre Richmond said it is a downward spiral that can be hard to break.

"North Carolina still has a law that where once you turn 16 you can be charged and tried as an adult," he said. "There were a lot of times I had to charge those kids."

Richmond, who used to be a school resource officer, is excited about the Misdemeanor Diversion Program. He hopes it will divert 16 and 17-year-old first-time, non-violent offenders out of the adult criminal justice system.

"This gives our youth and our children, and they are our children when they are 16-years-old, an opportunity to have that second chance," he said.

The program aims to keep kids out of the system and help them find job opportunities down the road.

"Giving that child the opportunity to walk into that job interview without a criminal record, without an arrest," Blackwood said. "These are still kids. They are still learning bodies, still growing and still trying to figure out life."

Blackwood said he modeled Orange County's program after a similar program in Durham County.

Anyone with questions regarding the program is asked to call Merrily Cheek at 919-245-2923.

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  • Christian Knott Apr 21, 10:02 a.m.
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    There are only two states in America where a 16 year old child can be tried as an adult. NC is one of them. No surprise there. Our state motto does not have the word "compassion" in it.