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TOWNSEND — Middlesex County District Attorney Gerard T. Leone Jr. is trying to expand the Community Based Justice program from high schools into middle schools.

Leone traveled to Townsend on Thursday morning to meet with school and police officials from Townsend, Ashby, Pepperell, Groton and Dunstable about the “CBJ” program.

The program brings together school and police officials, along with prosecutors from Leone’s office, to deal with juveniles in trouble, Leone said.

“The goals are two-fold,” Leone said. “On the front end, it is about preventing kids from going into the criminal justice system, the back end is dealing with court-involved kids.” Leone assigns one of his assistant district attorneys from each of the 12 district courts in Middlesex County to work with police and school officials.

A student getting into trouble — or getting arrested — is identified and the representatives in the program come together to figure out what is best for that student, he said.

Leone’s office will inform schools about students who are charged criminally, or otherwise involved with the court system, and, along with the local police department, will work to try to keep that student out of further trouble.

Leone’s office will inform schools about students who are charged criminally, or otherwise involved with the court system, and, along with the local police department, will work to try to keep that student out of further trouble.

“We’ll work with the schools, probation, police, to craft conditions to make diversion work,” he said.

Leone has spread the program to the smaller, suburban and rural communities in Middlesex County since becoming district attorney in 2007.

The growth of the program is because of the real need he sees. Drug and alcohol abuse is an issue of concern for high school, and now, middle-school children in the area, he said. “Those are the real problems,” he said. “Almost all of the issues you deal with have to do with family dysfunction and alcohol and drug abuse.”

Bullying and cyber-bullying are big problems with middle-school students, Leone said.

The anonymous nature of the Internet allows teens to be crueler than they would be in person, he said.

“It’s so much easier for kids to be mean to each other,” he said. With all of the issues facing the community, Leone knows the CBJ program will take a hit when budget cuts start being felt. Leone cut his office’s budget 2.5 percent last year and managed to keep all of his assistant district attorneys.

Leone expects deeper budget cuts this year, which will translate into a loss of staff.

Leone’s office has 120 lawyers, with 60 of them covering the 12 district courts for 54 cities and towns in Middlesex County. The preventative nature of the CBJ program means it will be the first one to be cut, or scaled back.

“I can’t let murders go unsolved,” he said. “The CBJ is a preventative program. The fact of the matter is that’s not our core mission.”

Budget cuts will not stop Leone from keeping the program going in some form, he said.

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