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Montco Officials Hope Mentoring Can Break Cycle of Juvenile Crime

By Brad Segall

NORRISTOWN, Pa. (CBS) -- Law enforcement officials in Montgomery County, Pa. believe they can keep delinquent kids who have committed minor offenses away from further contact with the criminal justice system by pairing them up with mentors.

Officials say nearly three thousand children between the ages of 10 and 15 entered the juvenile justice system in the county last year.

They say that one in five will return to the system within one year of their first contact with police, and that keeping a kid in detention costs about $179 a day, compared to about $4 a day for the "Back On Track" program.

Now, officials are teaming up with Big Brothers/Big Sisters of Southeastern Pennsylvania for the "Back On Track" program, in the hope that mentors will help put these young people on a better path.

Montgomery County chief public defender Keir Bradford-Grey says the mentor program goes beyond what happens in court:

"They focused on what we call a 'holistic approach' to representation.  That means we look beyond the offense and we work with the children and the family to see what drove the behavior."

She is working closely with the DA's office to identify the right kids for the program.

Big Brothers/Big Sisters is also putting out the call for mentors.  There are nine kids currently in the program, and twenty on a waiting list.

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