Juvenile Diversionary Program in Lycoming County District Court Making a Difference

Posted on June 9th, 2023 at 9:33 AM
Juvenile Diversionary Program in Lycoming County District Court Making a Difference

Prior to taking office in 2021, Lycoming County Magisterial District Judge and Lycoming Law Association member, Denise L. Dieter, practiced law for approximately 29 years. Living in the community where she worked, she saw first-hand the need to educate children that the law, and law enforcement, is not something to fear but rather to better understand and respect.  

“After taking office, I must admit I was surprised at the number of juvenile filings in my district and the varying types of crimes,” said MDJ Dieter. “I had juveniles being charged with truancy, vaping in school, disorderly conduct and harassment, with the alleged actions being very serious, and extremely risky internet-related crimes.  

“My concern was twofold.  First, what is the cause of these acts and second, what can I do to divert the minor away from recommitting a crime and avoiding a criminal record, which could interfere with their ability to go to the military, college, play sports or even be gainfully employed?” 

In response to these questions, MDJ Dieter created a Juvenile Offender Diversionary Program, which is a first-time offender program with the goal of the juvenile completing the program and not having a criminal record.  

The Diversionary Program includes an application, signed by the minor, their parents and law enforcement.  The components of the program are tailored to the individual minor.  

“I have been creative in that regard and expect that such individual creativity will have more of an impact than a one-size fits all approach,” added MDJ Dieter. “I hope the components of the program will increase the likelihood that minors will understand the risks of their behavior and serve as a deterrent for reoffending.” 

Some of the program components include counseling, participating in the Big Brother, Big Sister Program, online classes, charitable work and the like.  If the minor completes the program, which does include a final exit interview and an essay describing what they have learned (offense dependent of course), the judge will dismiss the charges.  

Though this program is in its infancy, the district court has received positive feedback from the families, law enforcement and educators in the school district. 

“As I began to put this program together with input from my colleagues, it became more evident to me that my district is unique, and I would have to mold this program around the needs of the juveniles and their families,” said MDJ Dieter. “With this focus, I look forward to working with the youth of my community in a positive, successful manner.”