New program for young offenders offers tutoring, training mentoring

SAN DIEGO — The San Diego County Board of Supervisors Tuesday gave final approval to a program aimed at preventing young criminal offenders from falling deeper into the juvenile justice system.

The board voted 3-0, with Supervisors Dianne Jacob and Ron Roberts absent, to set up as many as two youth “achievement centers” that will serve up to 25 juveniles on probation.

By offering tutoring, vocational training and mentoring, the facilities will hold young people accountable while promoting their well-being, said Adolfo Gonzales, chief county probation officer.

Youths will be monitored for six months after completing the program, Gonzales said, giving them a chance to avoid detention altogether.

Board Chairwoman Kristin Gaspar said a similar program has worked in Ventura County.

“The ultimate goal is (for underage offenders) to exit the juvenile justice system forever,” Gaspar said. “It will prove to be successful for San Diego County, as well.”

The county will seek bids from firms to operate the centers, though where the facilities will be located and how much they will cost has yet to be determined.

More than half of inmates in juvenile detention are there for violating court orders from prior cases, not for committing new crimes, according to county officials.