Declaring juvenile hall no place for the very young, Santa Clara County, Calif., supervisors voted this week on a groundbreaking policy that limits admission to children 13 and older, reports the San Jose Mercury News. Experts in detention practices said the new policy establishing a minimum age limit is virtually unprecedented nationwide. Local youth advocates praised the board’s action despite initial reluctance from some supervisors, who worried whether young murderers would be set free.
Those concerns were addressed by the county probation chief, who emphasized that the final say over where arrested minors should be housed continues to rest with the juvenile court. Many children under age 13 are arrested in the county each year. The new policy calls for exhausting “every effort possible” to avoid juvenile hall for them. Supervisors hope the policy will encourage judges to send such youth to alternative settings. Options include home-based supervision, intensive foster care and small, community-based treatment centers.