Supervisors Expand Innovative Program to Keep Youth Out of Jail
The County Board of Supervisors Tuesday unanimously approved the expansion of an innovative program to turn around the lives of troubled youth and keep them out of the juvenile justice system. “We all want young people in our society to take responsibility for their actions and when they make mistakes, to make it right with their victims and learn from it,” said County Supervisor Greg Cox. “It doesn’t always happen that way in the juvenile justice system, but we have an opportunity to do that with this program.” Cox and Supervisor Ron Roberts have been spearheading the County’s efforts to enhance juvenile prevention and intervention programs.
“This program offers the right prescription for keeping young people out of the prison system while still holding them accountable for their misdeeds,” said Supervisor Ron Roberts. “I want to thank our law enforcement and community partners for their continued willingness to work collaboratively and creatively on providing these youth a productive path forward.” The program began in 2014 as a pilot in City Heights. It brought youth face-to-face with crime victims and community residents to repair the harm these juveniles had caused. Of the 29 youth who completed the program, 28 complied with their assigned action plans, which included performing community service, attending substance abuse programs and repairing damaged property.
“Holding youth offenders accountable doesn’t always mean prosecuting them in juvenile court and putting them in juvenile hall,” said District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis. “We need more programs like this that provide second chances, opportunities for young offenders and alternative forms of justice.” The Board of Supervisors, along with Dumanis and Sheriff Bill Gore, proposed expanding the program over the next five years to serve more than 1,650 people, including 650 youths. The funds will be used to expand the Avoiding the Pipeline to Prison program into Southeastern San Diego and neighboring communities. In addition, a Center for Community Cohesion will be established in Southeastern San Diego. "This program has already demonstrated substantial results," commented Sheriff Bill Gore. "Our efforts will instill a sense of worth and purpose to those youths who have made bad decisions. Understanding the consequences of actions, combined with compassion is proving to be an effective process."
The Board voted on awarding a $200,000 contract for an initial one-year term with the National Conflict Resolution Center, with four option years. The total cost will be $2 million over 5 years, with $1 million in County funding and another $1 million in private funding.