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:

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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.

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“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.

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