District Attorney Summer Stephan announced a new juvenile diversion program Thursday. Photo credit: @SDDistAtty, via Twitter

The San Diego County District Attorney’s Office Thursday announced a program aimed at offering alternatives to prosecution for juveniles facing criminal charges.

The Juvenile Diversion Initiative will allow minors facing felony or misdemeanor charges the option of entering into an early intervention program instead.

The DA’s Office said the program will help reduce the number of young people entering the juvenile justice system and offer youths an opportunity to address the root causes of behaviors that led them to crime.

The countywide program is slated to begin this summer for youths between 12 and 18 years of age who commit non-serious offenses. Participation is voluntary and the youths will have the opportunity to have their arrest records sealed upon completion of the program.

The Juvenile Diversion Initiative includes “comprehensive therapeutic services, pro-social skill building opportunities, educational support as well as restorative justice community conferencing to ensure participants are supported and the needs of victims are addressed,” according to the DA’s Office.

It is estimated that on an annual basis, around 500 juveniles will be offered the chance to take part.

“The DA Juvenile Diversion Initiative is a leap forward in dismantling the school-to-prison pipeline and providing youth across our county a bridge to leading a healthy life, away from the criminal justice system,” said San Diego County DA Summer Stephan.

“If we can redirect juveniles from the very start, it spares them the negative effects of having a criminal record and gives them a better chance at success in the future,” she said. “Providing them with culturally competent and restorative resources that address the root causes of the criminal behavior in the communities in which they live support the best outcome for our youth.”

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