Report Faults County Juvenile Justice Policies

Orange County's juvenile justice system follows the law so strictly that it sometimes fails to accommodate differences among cases, according to a grand jury report released Monday.

"The protection of juvenile rights is sometimes compromised by the county's strict application of statutes," according to a press release outlining the report.

Titled "Study of the Detention of Minors in the Juvenile Justice System," the report looked at the legal process from both the standpoint of the rules that govern it and how it actually works in Orange County.

Among areas of concern noted in the report are the length of time minors are detained before having their cases adjudicated; the way the procedure is explained to parents; the lack of legal advice available to minors before their detention hearings; the possibility that the district attorney's office may be charging some minors with crimes more serious than appropriate under the circumstances; and minors' lack of ability to understand the significance of waiving constitutional rights.

The grand jury made four major recommendations:

* Find a better balance between rules and the rights of minors and their parents.

* Prepare an information packet for parents explaining how the system works and including phone numbers to assist them in inquiring about their child.

* Investigate independently the alleged offenses beyond what the police report states.

* Initiate better ways of disseminating information to appropriate agencies within the juvenile justice system.

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