Jacksonville developing program to help young first-time offenders

JACKSONVILLE, N.C. (WNCT)–A program aimed to keep young first-time offenders out of jail and from committing future crimes is in the works in Jacksonville.

The Pretrial Intervention Program aims to break the cycle where young first-time offenders without a prior record continue to commit crimes after their first arrest.

The program works by targeting 16- and 17-year-olds who commit small offenses like disorderly conduct or property crimes, the most common in the county.

The young offenders are then placed into diversion programs, instead of jail, to learn about the law and why it’s important.

“Those small first time offenses where they have made a small mistake, we can divert to a program that hopefully will teach them the reason that the law is in place and try to make them understand that it’s not a good idea to do these kinds of things,” said Chief Michael Yaniero, Jacksonville Police Department.

The recidivism rate, or likelihood to re-offend, for those who don’t complete diversion programs is 40% compared to 6% if the first-time offenders are able to get the education they need, according to the chief. A similar program is in place in Durham.

The city is also implementing a mental health and substance abuse diversion program called LEADS.

“With the opioid issue what it is right now, we need to do something different besides just arresting them,” Yaniero said.

Folks in that program will be required to go through substance abuse or mental health counseling.

The program is in its infancy stages and will be the result of collaboration between local law enforcement and community leaders. It will first be implemented in the school system and later expanded.


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