SANTA CLARA (KCBS/AP) – Santa Clara County is planning big changes in its juvenile justice system in an effort to keep the youngest offenders out of jail and treat teenagers differently than adult criminals.

KCBS’ Matt Bigler Reports:

Santa Clara County Supervisor Dave Cortese said in his State of the County address Tuesday that he wants to raise the age limit for entry in juvenile hall to 16. Current policy discourages entry for those 12 and younger.

Cortese wants most children 13 and younger diverted to community treatment centers. He said that this would shift the emphasis from punishment to reform. Still, he stressed that wouldn’t mean that probation officer jobs would go away.

“I’d like to transition those highly-trained employees out into the community to work on prevention and intervention, instead of locking our kids up,” said Cortese.

Additionally, presiding Juvenile Court Judge Patrick Tondreau has called on supervisors to split the probation department and create a separate pathway for youth offenders. The judge says it sends a message to the community that kids are treated differently than adults.

Union leaders are blasting the plan, saying it would cost the county a fortune.In Governor Brown’s budget plan he pushes for the elimination of the state youth prison system, which would send more young inmates to county facilities.

(© 2011 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

Comments (2)
  1. Latrenda Leslie says:

    Why disregard the challenges of 16 and 17 year olds. There is a massive loss of brain tissue during these teenage years also. The brain tissue that is being lost involves impulse and self control. Courts shouldn’t disregard a teens childhood, background…etc. There are so many possible reasons for the increase in teen crime. There are so many children in the system now for abuse, neglect…etc. These juveniles need love, guardians, comfort and support. Locking juveniles up doesn’t provide any of these things.

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