LWV League of Women Voters of California Education Fund
Smart Voter March 2 , 2004 Election
Measure A
Juvenile Hall and Probation Department
Charter Amendments County of Santa Clara




The League does not judge the merits of arguments of the measure's proponents or opponents or question their validity. Arguments come from many sources and are not limited to those found in the County voter information pamphlet.

The Situation

Santa Clara County is the fourth largest county in California, with over 1.7 million residents and a wide diversity of cultures. The court system administrative structure includes the Presiding Judge of Superior Court and Supervising Judge of Juvenile Court. The Santa Clara County Charter provides that the Judge of the Juvenile Court shall appoint the Chief Probation Officer. The probation department is an arm of the court. Probation is a judicially imposed sentence that attempts to treat and rehabilitate offenders. As of July 2000, the probation department had 877 budgeted positions for both the juvenile and adult court systems, including 85 probation management and supervisors. Juvenile probation staff included 50 juvenile community services POs, 69 juvenile probation services POs, and 23 community worker POs.

As of July 1999, 4,543 juveniles were being served by the probation department. Nine per cent were in maximum supervision, 19% in regular supervision, 27% in minimum supervision, and 40% were diversion cases. Among those held in local detention at Juvenile Hall are youths awaiting trial in adult court.

An investigation of alleged abuses at Juvenile Hall led to a management study and increased training of Juvenile Hall employees is scheduled to begin this March. After many years of service, the Chief Probation Officer has retired and a respected interim chief is serving until a new permanent Chief Probation Officer can be appointed. The Juvenile Hall Advisory Board proposed in Measure A is not at issue.

The Question

Shall Section 504 of the Charter of the County of Santa Clara County be amended to transfer to the County Executive the power to appoint, supervise, direct, suspend or remove the Chief Adult and Juvenile Probation Officer, and shall the Board of Supervisors then establish a Juvenile Hall Advisory Board composed of thirteen or more persons from organizations and groups as specified in the Measure?

A YES vote means the right to appoint, supervise, or remove the Chief Adult and Juvenile Probation Officer will be transferred to the County Executive.

A NO vote means the right to appoint, supervise, or remove the Chief Adult and Juvenile Probation Officer will remain with the Superior Court.

Supporters Say

  • The Board of Supervisors should have the responsibility and authority for the Probation Department since it has responsibility for both the budget and liability issues.
  • The County Executive should have the authority to appoint, supervise, or remove the Chief Probation Officer so that the Board of Supervisors can implement changes at Juvenile Hall.
  • Measure A is needed to make Juvenile Hall a safe environment for both the youth held there and Juvenile Hall employees.
  • Judges meet in private and decide without formal public input and are not as accountable to the public as the County Executive and the Board of Supervisors are. The Board of Supervisors conducts its business in public and its records are available to the public.
  • The County Executive and Board of Supervisors lack authority over the leadership and policies of the Probation Department.

Opponents Say

  • Measure A will not solve problems at Juvenile Hall. A collaborative effort by Court, County and community will, as is recommended by the State Probation Services Task Force.
  • Measure A threatens the independence of the Court and its ability for the probation department to do independent pre-sentence investigations.
  • The Court has proposed a power sharing agreement between the Superior Court and the Board of Supervisors to collaboratively appoint the Chief Probation Officer, as is the practice in numerous counties throughout the state.
  • The Board did not follow Charter Amendment procedures. There was no Charter Review Committee, no process in the Public Safety and Justice Committee with recommendations to the Board, no opportunity for input from key stakeholders --- Court, District Attorney, Public Defender, Sheriff, local law enforcement, commnunity service providers, and the Juvenile Justice Commission.
  • Measure A is a power grab by the County Executive and Board of Supervisors. Santa Clara County Probation Department has a national reputation as an excellent department that utilizes model practices and has established successful innovative programs that serve the community well.

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